The storm snapped trees and started at least two dozen fires, most of which were small and quickly put out. It was short but violent, and it was a dramatic show that started around 2 a.m. with a grand finale just before sunrise.
"We both woke up and I went up on the roof and watched for about half an hour and I could see lightning crashing all around, and hear the thunder. It was spectacular," Blake Godwin of San Francisco told ABC7.
The lightning wrought spectacular damage in many places including the corner of California and Broderick in San Francisco.
"The neighbors said they saw a big flash of lightning and it struck our PG&E transformer, making a catastrophic failure of the unit, and started it on fire," explained Gene McCandless with PG&E.
"The building shook and then my clock went out so I knew the power went out, and I went out in the hall because I smelled smoke. My neighbors who live on this side of the building, we were looking out, and the flame actually reached their window on the sixth floor," recalled resident Cathy Brooks.
The exploding transformer dropped hot oil on the cars below, melting both vehicles as fire crews arrived. Neighbors praised the quick response for keeping the fire from spreading.
Across the Bay in San Pablo, the rain shorted out a transformer, sparking a fire on a utility pole. PG&E crews were out all day long repairing 30 separate outages in the Richmond area alone. Traffic lights were out at some intersections. By early evening, there was still no power at one market, where long rows of coolers warmed up with each passing hour.
"I'm sure the ice cream is going to be gone, and the milk. A lot of stuff going bad," store owner Mohammed Elzofri told ABC7.
Residents braced for a night without electricity.
"I buy two candles at family store because no lights, no power. I have no lights, " said Enedina Ybarra of Richmond.
Others, like one woman, whose car was demolished, found a way to see things in a positive light.
"Oh my God, I mean on one hand I got lucky nobody got injured, I wasn't in the car, it happened at the time it did," said Taruna Sharma of San Francisco. "But, what a fluke accident! Once in a lifetime I guess."