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L.A. Now Live: Widespread stench in Southern California very unusual

September 11, 2012 |  6:30 am

A foul odor wafted over Southern California on Monday, a stench officials believe is caused by the annual fish die-off at the Salton Sea combined with thunderstorms and strong winds that pushed the dead-fish smell west overnight.

Officials from the Air Quality Management District and other agencies said they have never dealt with a smell quite like this. Although the fish die-off usually causes foul odors in parts of the Inland Empire, officials cannot recall it traveling this far.

The Times Inland Empire Bureau Chief Phil Willon will join L.A. Now Live at 9 a.m. to discuss the rotten smell.

"It's very unusual that any odor would be this widespread, from the Coachella [Valley] to Los Angeles County," said Sam Atwood, spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District. "We're talking well over 100 miles. I can't recall ever confirming an odor traveling that distance."

The Salton Sea did track 40-mph winds Sunday night, and officials said that probably served as a trigger.

"The winds could have stirred up the water," said Bill Meister, president of the Sea and Desert Interpretive Assn. "Because the lake is so shallow, and there is 100 years' worth of decayed material at the bottom, you'd get that rotten egg smell."