As the region suffered through a fourth day of triple-digit temperatures, wild weather swept through parts of Southern California late Tuesday afternoon, causing flooding and damage in areas of the Inland Empire.
Southwestern Riverside County and eastern Orange County -- including Riverside, Temecula, Corona, Hemet and Mission Viejo -- were among the areas affected by the sudden summer storm, which included heavy rain, lightning and hail in the afternoon hours.
One of the areas hardest hit by the severe weather was Wildomar, which is located in Riverside County not far from Lake Elsinore.
The thunderstorm caused serious damage at Elsinore High School, tearing up the track, pummeling the school's baseball dugout and metal batting cages and filling some buildings and classrooms with water that was knee-deep.
A staff member described the frightening moments of being caught up in the storm, likening it to a movie.
“It was insane. It was like that scene in 'Twister' where everything is flying around. I was waiting to see the cow to go by,” said Shannon Atkins, a staff member at the school. “We couldn’t get to safety, we were just right there holed up and there was nothing we could do.
“There was lightning right over the top of us, and winds blowing sideways. We had hail…just pelting us. It was just, the girls were crying," she said.
Both the high school and nearby Wildomar Elementary School were flooded, a spokesman for the Lake Elsinore Unified School District said.
The worst of the severe weather struck at the end of the school day, as students were getting ready to head home.
At the elementary school, power went out during the thunderstorm, which also left some classrooms covered in 2-inch deep water, according to Mark Heldreth, who works at the school.
"We've had little rains come through during the summer and flood out a little bit, but this one came so fast that it didn't have time to go anywhere," Heldreth said.
Despite the mess left behind by the storm, classes were still scheduled to be held on Wednesday, district officials said.
In the surrounding area, the storm was blamed for downing power lines and toppling a number of trees, including two that smashed down onto vehicles.
The damage came amid a severe thunderstorm warning that was issued about 3:30 p.m. for parts of the Inland Empire and Orange County, according to the National Weather Service.
The warning has since expired.
The "dangerous storm" was predicted to bring winds of up to 60 mph, the weather service's San Diego forecast office announced. People were advised to move inside and stay away from windows.
"If you are in its path, prepare immediately for damaging winds, destructive hail and deadly cloud-to-ground lightning," the weather service stated.
The burn area in the recent Silverado Fire was among the areas impacted by the thunderstorm warning, the Orange County Office of Emergency Services stated on Twitter.
In Ontario, what appeared to be a dust storm was hanging over the airport area about 3:30 p.m., aerial video showed.
Meanwhile, a possible funnel cloud moved over the Big Bear area around 4:30 p.m., according to witnesses.
A thunderstorm also moved through Acton in the Antelope Valley about 4:45 p.m., bringing hail and brief, heavy downpours, the weather service's Oxnard office stated on Twitter.
A lightning strike from the storm may have caused a brush fire along the 14 Freeway at Soledad Canyon Road just before 5 p.m., according to the California Highway Patrol's incident log.
While parts of the drought-stricken region were hit by wet weather, other parts experienced scorching heat for a fourth-straight day, as a heat wave in Southern California again left the region sweltering and even broke some high-temperature records.
Excessive heat and red-flag warnings were in effect for parts of Los Angeles and Ventura counties through Tuesday evening.
— NWS San Diego (@NWSSanDiego) September 16, 2014