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Heat Blows In to Fuel Fires, Sizzle Records

October 05, 1987|TED THACKREY Jr. and JERRY HICKS | Times Staff Writer

A dry northeast breeze that meteorologists called "a mild Santa Ana condition" blew into Southern California on Sunday, bringing the second day of record temperatures--and singeing the Earth with a breath of brush and forest fire.

The temperature in downtown Santa Ana hit 104 degrees and some beach cities in Orange County were only a little cooler, at 92 degrees.

One Orange County firefighter suffered heat exhaustion as more than 80 firefighters fought a seven-acre blaze in Modjeska Canyon on Sunday afternoon. The fire, whose origin was unknown, broke out about 3:30 p.m. in a remote part of the canyon, county fire officials reported.

Many Orange County residents looked to the shopping centers for air-conditioned comfort. All shopping centers in the county reported a dramatic increase in business, which officials attributed at least in part to the weather.

Business Hot

"We had an antique show and a sidewalk sale," said Delores Massey, spokeswoman for The City Shopping Center in Orange. "But the heat no doubt made the difference."

Some beachgoers didn't mind the heat.

"I think it's great," said Maria Acker of Mission Viejo, who was in Dana Point for the Old Tyme Sea Festival. "I moved here from Fresno. I miss the heat."

But most beachgoers said they were there to escape the heat.

"It's usually cooler here at the beach; you can count on it every time," said Tony Orth of Capistrano Beach, who also was at the Dana Point festival.

The temperature at the Los Angeles Civic Center hit 108 degrees for the second day in a row, setting a new record for the date (the old one was 100 degrees, set in 1953) and coming within two degrees of the city's all-time record of 110.

What's more, the overnight low of 76 degrees was a record, too. It was five degrees above the old mark for highest minimum reading, set in 1985.

At least two other records were broken: Santa Maria eclipsed its old record for the day, set in 1981, by 13 degrees with a reading of 108. UC Riverside's top of 105 for the day surpassed the old mark of 103, set in 1975.

Three-figure readings were, in fact, the rule rather than the exception throughout the area, with San Luis Obispo leading the list at 111 degrees, followed by Monrovia and Palm Springs at 109; Blythe and San Gabriel with 107; Montebello, Miramar and Borrego with 106; Burbank, Long Beach, Pasadena and El Cajon with 105, and Santa Ana, Northridge, Needles and Culver City all topping out at 104.

Meteorologist Bob Grebe of the National Weather Service said today could also be a record-setter. Temperatures from 102 to 106 degrees were predicted for Central Los Angeles, and the old record for Oct. 5 is 101 degrees.

The Orange County forecast for today and tomorrow is mostly clear skies, with hot afternoons. The inland temperatures are expected to reach a high again of 104 degrees. The temperatures in the beach cities, however, could drop to a high in the low 80s by Tuesday.

Grebe said the heat and the low humidity--it ranged from 29% overnight to just 13% by early afternoon--were due to a strong high-pressure area that was pushing hot desert air out to sea. This offshore flow, a mild Santa Ana, should continue for a day or two, he said.

But there was good news, too.

Cooling Trend Wednesday

The weather service said computer forecast maps suggest a cooling trend along the coast, beginning Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Southern California baked.

More than 2 million people flocked to the beaches.

"We had a few rescues," Los Angeles County lifeguard Tim Hatton said. "And we had the expectable number of lost kids and arguments that ended in fistfights. But the main job all day long was keeping people from burning to a crisp.

"We had more than 100 cases of sunburn along my strip of the beach, and I know everyone else did about the same--and to that you have to add the cases of heat exhaustion. Everyone came early and stayed late . . . and that can be hard on you if you're not used to it."

Those who could, ran away to sea.

The U.S. Coast Guard reported that more than 200 private vessels required assistance of various kinds Sunday.

"A few ran out of fuel and others had engine trouble," Coast Guard spokesman Jane Arnold said, "and others developed leaks when fittings broke or just plain got lost. A few boats actually needed to be towed to safety.

"We did, however, have more than the usual number of medical problems, such as heat exhaustion or deep sunburn. Most were given emergency medical treatment, but three had to be airlifted to hospitals ashore. They all were reported in good shape after treatment."

Visitors to the mountains found temperatures a bit more bearable at resort altitudes. Lake Arrowhead had an unofficial temperature reading of 85 degrees; Big Bear's unofficial mark was 83.

High temperatures, dry air and northeast winds rising to 15 m.p.h. at times combined to make life miserable for firefighters struggling to control brush and forest blazes in the area.

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