Southern Californians coped with the fifth day of hot weather Wednesday--the first day of summer--but it was more than a dozen degrees cooler in downtown Los Angeles than the record-shattering high that had been predicted.
The high at the Civic Center reached 93 degrees, far below the record 105 for the date set in 1973. WeatherData Inc., which provides forecasts for The Times, had predicted an all-time high of 107 and the National Weather Service had expected a reading of 104.
Meteorologist Rick Dittmann of WeatherData said an onshore flow of air--called a Catalina eddy--carried cooler air around the Los Angeles Basin, blunting the effect of a Santa Ana-like flow of heated air from the interior.
But it was still hot away from the coast, with readings pushing near 100 in the valleys.
Similar, if somewhat cooler, weather is expected today.
First-stage smog alerts were called in the west and east San Gabriel Valley.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District had predicted several first-stage alerts all over the basin and in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. But the warm weather caused the inversion layer to lift somewhat, and there were fewer episodes than expected, AQMD spokeswoman Claudia Keith said. Still, she said, air quality was still generally unhealthy in many areas.
The predictions of hot weather sent an estimated 250,000 people to Los Angeles County beaches, lifeguard officials said. Lt. Robert Schroeder estimated that about 150,000 sunbathers flocked to beaches in his area--including Manhattan, Hermosa, Redondo, Torrance, Palos Verdes and Cabrillo. Another 100,000 people were reported at beaches on the northern and central coast.
Away from the ocean breezes, hundreds of thousands kept their cool with air conditioning.
Southern California Edison reported that its customers were expected to use 14,230 megawatts of power Wednesday. That is somewhat lower than 14,506 megawatts used Monday and 14,872 megawatts used Tuesday. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said the power demand was expected to peak at 4,561 megawatts, about a 20% increase in normal usage. A megawatt is a million watts.
Brush fires that had bedeviled firefighters in three counties along with high temperatures on Tuesday had been controlled or extinguished Wednesday.
Near San Clemente, firefighters stamped out smoldering shrubs and grass from Orange County's first wildfire of the season, which blackened 175 acres north of a TRW aerospace facility near Ortega Highway. Lower-than-expected temperatures made the job easier.
"Imagine this when it's 100 out," said firefighter Ed Bruneau, pointing to charred slopes. "We're not as sweaty as we usually are."
Another blaze that swept 935 acres between the high desert communities of Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree was contained Wednesday morning and was expected to be extinguished by 8 a.m. today, according to the state Division of Forestry.
Residents of about 85 houses threatened by the flames left their homes briefly Tuesday night as the fire advanced, but no structures were burned.
Firefighters also extinguished a 100-acre blaze in the Devore area of San Bernardino County and a 300-acre fire in Ventura County's Newbury Park.