A dry northeast breeze that meteorologists called "a mild Santa Ana condition" blew into Southern California Sunday, bringing the second day of record temperatures--and singeing the Earth with a breath of brush and forest fire.
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, and UC Riverside's top of 105 for the day eclipsed 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.
Another Record-Setter Today?
Meteorologist Bob Grebe of the National Weather Service said today could well be a record-setter, too. Temperatures from 102 to 106 degrees were predicted for Central Los Angeles, and the old record for Oct. 5 is 101 degrees.
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 aloft, which 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.
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 fled to beaches of Los Angeles and Orange counties.
"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 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, while 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.
A fire that began with a lightning strike Friday near Fishbowls Campground continued out of control after scorching at least 2,300 acres in Los Padres National Forest near Ojai, despite the efforts of 800 firefighters who were hampered by dense smoke and limited access to the remote area.
There was no estimate on containment on that fire, but Tim Spann of the California Department of Forestry said a 2,500-acre blaze burning since Saturday at Lake Elsinore is now 75% contained, and firefighters hope to have it completely encircled by Tuesday morning.
Two of the 115 firefighters assigned to that blaze suffered minor injury, Spann said, but both were reported in good condition Sunday afternoon.
Damage from the Lake Elsinore fire was estimated at $73,000; one mobile home and several sheds were burned, and exotic birds worth $3,500 perished, but residents who were forced to evacuate their homes Saturday were permitted to return Sunday morning.
Spann said the fire was caused by sparks from high power lines.
"When we have winds, your wires will be moving and they'll hit some kind of transformer and then you'll have sparks," he said.
A grass and brush fire blackened 15 acres and caused $150,000 damage to a three-story house on Valentine Street near Dodger Stadium during the noonday heat, city Fire Department spokesman Jim Williamson said.
It took 85 city firefighters from 13 companies and four helicopters 1 1/2 hours to control the blaze as they battled not only flames but 100-plus-degree temperatures. There were no civilian or firefighter injuries. Cause of the blaze was listed as "suspicious," Williamson said. "Both the grass and house were going when the first unit got there."
In northern San Diego County, a fire that broke out Saturday afternoon destroyed two homes and several other structures and consumed more than 3,000 acres at the base of Palomar Mountain, and remained out of control Sunday afternoon.
Audrey Hagen of the California Department of Forestry, which had 450 firefighters on the lines, said the problem "is the heavy fuel in the area." She said power and phone lines were down and campers were evacuated from Palomar State Park, though the Palomar Observatory was not threatened.