It was a more dazzling display than fireworks could ever produce.

A string of powerful thunderstorms passing over Southern California triggered an explosion of lightning between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties.


The National Weather Service’s Los Angeles office reported 2,200 strikes overnight across the region, including a five-minute burst of 1,200 strikes over Santa Barbara.

NWS meteorologist Kristen Stewart calls the weather rare in California and says a pattern in the jet stream instigated the lightning-filled show.

“Jet stream factors led to instability in the atmosphere,” Stewart explained.

The barrage of lightning was part of a so-called atmospheric river that arrived in California on Tuesday.

Daniel Swain a climate scientist at UC Los Angeles, wrote on Twitter, “#AtmosphericRivers w/subtropical origins are occasionally very convective in SoCal, but this was most spectacular winter lightning display in recent memory.”


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A wet winter storm is also delivering drenching rain to Central and Southern California, causing roadway flooding and traffic accidents.

A flood advisory is in effect Wednesday morning from Los Angeles west to Santa Barbara, and flood watches are posted in many other areas.

The late-winter storm rolled in late Tuesday, hurling lightning bolts and unleashing blasts of thunder through the night.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office acted in advance of the storm, ordering 3,000 residents to evacuate neighborhoods below mountains and hills scarred by wildfires. That included parts of Montecito hit by a disastrous debris flow just over a year ago.

Rain is expected to diminish through the day, but shower activity will continue on Thursday and Friday.