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Freak storm attacks Venice Beach, killing one, injuring 13

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Many beach-goers are lucky to be alive today after a freak storm swept through the Los Angeles area on Sunday, killing one man and injuring 13 at Venice Beach, a popular tourist attraction. A total of four mid-afternoon lightning strikes sent an estimated 20,000 locals and tourists scurrying for cover.

Local broadcasting stations are reporting that L.A. resident Nick Fagnano was pulled from the water after he was struck by lightning; he later died at Marina Del Rey Hospital. The 20-year-old had planned to attend the University of Southern California in the fall, his family members told an L.A. news station. Of the 13 injured, eight were transported to nearby hospitals. As of this writing, a surfer remains in critical condition.

Meteorologists say the lightning strikes that slammed into the Venice Beach area are extremely rare because the West Coast has the lowest occurrence of lightning strikes in the nation. In fact, the odds of being struck by lightning in California are 1 in 7.5 million.

Weather experts blame the development of such an explosive storm on a massive high-pressure system east of the coastal area that sucked in lots of hot, moist air from Mexico and the Gulf of California, thereby producing atmospheric instability throughout the beach communities. Sunday's storm lasted about 15 minutes.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported that a golfer on Santa Catalina Island was also struck by lightning, caused by the same storm system. The unidentified man was hospitalized and remains in stable condition.

Since electrical burns can have a delayed effect on the human body, authorities are urging all beach-goers who were in or near the water at the time of Sunday's lightning strikes to see a medical doctor. Although Los Angeles boasts an annual average of 284 days of sunshine, it is wise to always heed the National Weather Service's adage: "When thunder roars, go indoors."

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