Michael Walker's story in last Sunday's L.A. Times Magazine goes back and recreates the freak meterological conditions that caused heavy hail and five inches of rain to pound on Compton and South Los Angeles in a scary few hours last November 12. The storm cell is now rated a once-in-every-10,000-years event, and basically amazed the weather service forecasters and a UCLA expert who watched it form via the data on their computer screens. A storm chaser from Fresno named Steve Johnson happened to be driving on the 405 when he caught sight of a thunderhead that stunned him:
"It was a monster," Johnson says. "Just a massive wall going straight up to 40,000 feet."
The anvil showed evidence of "backshearing"—seen in only the fiercest thunderstorms. Backshearing occurs when a thunderstorm's updraft streams out the top of the storm with such force that it drags the cloud backward. "The anvil boils to the west, against the prevailing winds, and overhangs the rest of the tower," he says. "It's rare to see California storms do that."
Johnson exited the 405 and set a course for the storm's southwestern flank. As he headed into Watts, all he could think was: "I never dreamed in a million years I'd chase in the L.A. Basin."
Also in the magazine, Fred Dickey sits down with former Gov. Pete Wilson and traces his political rehab in the Republican Party, which is due to Arnold Schwarzenegger.