Dead fish at Salton Sea, strong winds are blamed for the Monday morning stink smelled across the Southland.

Dead fish at Salton Sea, strong winds are blamed for the Monday morning stink smelled across the Southland. (Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times / September 10, 2012)

Authorities said the foul smell reported by thousands of Southern California residents from Palm Springs to Ventura County was most likely caused by a fish die-off at the Salton Sea combined with strong winds overnight that pushed the smell into the Los Angeles area.

Officials investigating stressed that they have not determined an official cause — and added they've never heard of the Salton Sea die-off smell spreading so far. But they say the sea is now the focus of the probe.

The general manager of the Salton Sea Authority said he’s not sure if the sea is the source of the foul odor, and is being inundated by telephone calls — including inquiries from the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

“We really don’t know whether it’s the Salton Sea or not,’’ said Andy Schlange. “The best answer I can give you is that we’re looking into it.’’

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-- Phil Willon, Richard Winton, Jason Song, Hector Beccera and Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times