Cyclists suffer hypothermia in California storms

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A wave of brief but fierce storms rolled through Southern California mountains and deserts on Saturday, leaving 40 bicycle racers with hypothermia and possibly causing a 14-car highway pileup in the desert that injured nine people, authorities said.

Monsoonal moisture moving up from the south connected with warmer air inland and created thunderstorms that prompted flash flood warnings and watches in parts of San Diego, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

In San Bernardino County, gusty winds kicked up blinding dust on Interstate 40 east of Barstow. That may have caused a crash shortly before 10:30 a.m. in Newberry Springs that involved 10 big-rigs and four sedans, said Otto Schramm with the county Fire Department.

Nine people suffered minor injuries, he said.

Monsoonal weather in New Mexico flooded downtown Albuquerque and left some people stranded in their cars. Fire crews rescued several people Friday night as flash flooding hit the downtown. Parts of Arizona were also deluged Friday and got a second soaking Saturday. Authorities say runoff from rain on Friday night caused flooding in areas of metropolitan Phoenix, stranding at least one motorist.

In California’s San Bernardino Mountains, the 100-mile contest in the annual Tour de Big Bear race was disrupted when a storm dumped rain on bicyclists on 8,400-foot-high Onyx Peak.

Most had mild to moderate hypothermia and were taken back to the starting line, county fire spokesman Eric Sherwin said.

“Some were shivering, some were suffering from cramps” but none needed to be hospitalized, he said.

Although summer “pop-up” thunderstorms aren’t rare, it was unusual to have such cold weather during the race, Sherwin said.

Normally, “we deal more with heat emergencies,” he said. “It was the exact opposite.”

The downpour only lasted about 1 1/2 hours and the temperature was only 50 to 60 degrees but “dressed in cycling clothes, 60 degrees and wet is cold, especially when you’ve got done sweating climbing up a mountain pass,” said race event director Craig Smith.

Most of the 1,700 riders competing in various distance contests completed the race, he added.

“We can’t control the weather,” Smith said. “But we all need the rain so we can’t complain about moisture falling form the sky.”

The National Weather Service warned that the storms could dump a lot of water in a short amount of time. More than an inch of rain fell in a half-hour at Santa Rosa Mountain in the San Bernardino National Forest, the agency reported.

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