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Heat, Smog to Get Worse Before They Get Better

June 21, 1989|PENELOPE McMILLAN and DAVAN MAHARAJ | Times Staff Writers

The last day of spring in Southern California, 1989, was marked by brush fires, a new record power use for June, smog alerts and soaring temperatures that forecasters predict that will get worse before they get better.

As the heat wave stretched into its fourth day Tuesday, the temperature climbed to 93 degrees at the Civic Center, still far short of the record 106 set in 1973.

But Rick Dittmann, a meteorologist with WeatherData, Inc., which provides forecasts for The Times, predicted "record heat" for today--as high as 107 at the Civic Center, which would break the standard for the date, also set in 1973, by two degrees.

'May Break on Friday'

The same could be true Thursday, he said, before relief arrives Friday.

Brush fires broke out in San Bernardino, Ventura and Orange counties as temperatures climbed above 100 degrees and humidity plummeted.

By late Tuesday, the largest fire had blackened more than 600 acres in the high desert area of Yucca Valley, where residents of 85 homes evacuated their homes voluntarily for a time when their homes were briefly threatened, state Division of Forestry officials said. No structures were damaged.

Officials said the fire was started by a power line that fell after someone fired a weapon at its insulators. No suspects are in custody.

A brush fire in the Cable Canyon area near Devore consumed 115 acres, U.S. Forest Service officials reported. And more than 300 acres of rough, brushy terrain burned Tuesday afternoon in the Newbury Park area of Ventura County, fire officials said. No structures were damaged in either blaze.

Orange County firefighters were having difficulty encircling a 50-acre brush fire in rough terrain northeast of San Clemente, a department spokeswoman said, but no homes or structures were threatened.

The record for June power consumption continued. While Monday's utility use reached a peak demand for a June day, with 14,506 megawatts, Southern California Edison spokeswoman Melanie Savage said Tuesday beat that, with 14,872 megawatts.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reported a 20% increase in normal power use Tuesday, also attributing the demand to "more people using their air conditioner units."

At least 190,000 Southern Californians rushed out to area beaches, where temperatures were several degrees cooler.

"We're mobbed!" exclaimed Los Angeles County lifeguard Bob Schroeder of crowds at South Bay, Marina del Rey and San Pedro beaches. The numbers were four times higher than normal for a June weekday, he added.

The first-stage smog alerts predicted for the area materialized only for about an hour in the East San Fernando Valley, the South Coast Air Quality Management District reported.

But the district forecasts first-stage alerts today, however, for metropolitan Los Angeles, the inland valleys and the coast.

Forecasters blamed the heat on high pressure areas in the upper atmosphere over the eastern Pacific Ocean. Dittmann added that another high-pressure area building over the deserts "causes a weak, offshore flow. In effect, (that is) transporting the hot air out to the coast.

"It is a mild Santa Ana condition, but the winds won't be a factor."

As the sun blazed, 50,000 Southern Californians flocked to beaches in Santa Monica, Venice and Topanga. The sunbathers were equivalent to "a light summer crowd," lifeguards said.

Among those cooling on the Santa Monica Pier were those who said they had "blown off work" to beat the heat.

Mark O'Connell, 30, an estimator for a glass company, said he had taken the day off. Equipped with fishing rod and a supply of anchovies for bait, he had arrived early to secure his favorite spot.

"Even if I don't catch anything, just feeling the cool ocean breeze will be well worth it," he said.

The warm weather meant more business than usual at Venice Beach, where a steady stream of bicyclists, roller skaters and skate boarders weaved their way through the crowds.

"I like this weather," said Sag Shin, 22, whose family owns and operates the Frozen Yogurt store on the beach. "When it's cold or foggy, nothing sells. Now business is really picking up."

A small crowd gathered around Ben Harris, 32, of Pomona, who had brought 11 Cocker Spaniel puppies to sell for $200 each. Within half an hour, Harris had pocketed $800.

"A few more to go. The best place in the world to come to sell anything is Venice Beach on a warm day," Harris said.

But, he complained: "If it was the weekend, they all would have been sold already."

At the mammoth 75-story Library Square construction site in downtown Los Angeles, workers said a slight breeze helped those who had tasks outside the building. But those working inside on floors where glass windows have been installed were sweltering.

Keith Tinsley sweated profusely as he rushed along Flower Street, handing out flyers for the free Friday noontime concerts this month at the Music Center Plaza. The temporary agency that had hired him for $5.50 an hour told him to "take my time," the 22-year-old said, "and walk slowly."

"I just got got out of the service," he added. "Walking, that's what I've been doing for the last four years."

As he wrote out his ninth parking ticket in the space of an hour, city Department of Transportation officer Jesse Brisco said he wished "just this once," that people would obey traffic laws.

"Then I wouldn't have to get out of my car," he said. "It's air conditioned."

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