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Can't Take the Heat? Tips on Getting Cooler


Sure, the air out there feels as if somebody thought you were tonight's rib roast and slipped you into the oven at a slow bake.

But you don't have to take it. This is 1990, and there are things you can do about the heat.

Like get a job at an ice house. While his friends melt in their back yards and living rooms, Steven Fierro, 17, an Azusa High School senior, toddles off to the Monrovia Ice Co. in Duarte.

Here, in blissfully frigid air, he helps to shepherd a torrent of ice cubes into plastic bags, or chops steaming 300-pound blocks down to size with an ice pick.

If he finds himself getting a little overheated--during the hot weather, the plant on Huntington Drive can spit out as much as 20 tons of ice a day--Fierro just strolls into the storeroom, where all those bags of cubes are kept at an icy 20 degrees. Here, Fierro and co-worker Eric Leal take a few breaths of arctic air and think about what it must be like outside.

"On days like this," Fierro said, "I just want to come to work."

There's no relief in sight. Rick Dittman, a meteorologist with Weather Data Inc., said there is a huge high pressure system parked on top of Southern California like a lid on a barbecue grill.

The normal "thermal trough," with offshore breezes wafting across the region, has been reversed, Dittman said. "Now you have winds blowing down from the east and the north, and cities like Monrovia, at the base of a huge mountain range, are in a perfect position for really hot weather," he said.

Monrovia reached highs of 109 degrees for three days running this week, and other foothill cities were experiencing similar temperatures. The prospects are for similar weather through the weekend, Dittman said.

San Gabriel Valley residents have been finding lots of ways to escape that oven, or at least to step away from its direct blast.

Everybody seems to have a favorite escape. There are back-yard swimming pools and Raging Waters, the water attraction in Bonelli Park in San Dimas. There are home air conditioners, shopping malls and air-conditioned movie theaters.

Some cool-off strategies can't be shared. "I go home and sit in front of the air conditioner buck naked," a 16-year-old Pasadena girl said.

At times like this, Sandy Gollihugh knows she's in the right business. As the rest of Pasadena contends with 104 degrees, Gollihugh is zipped into a heavy leather jacket for her job as an ice-skating instructor.

"Sometimes it gets cold in here," Gollihugh said, leaning against the rail at the Pasadena Ice Skating Center on East Green Street. "On days like today, I know I made the right choice."

On Monday, there were great stretches of open ice at the center, as some of Gollihugh's students practiced their pirouettes and figure eights. A group of high school students from the Siloam Church Youth Group in Paramount celebrated their last day of vacation, charging around the rink in a chain.

"It's a kind of tradition with us," said Sarah Choe, 16, a student at Warren High School in Downey. "We come here every year."

Across the street at the Plaza Pasadena mall, the pace was slow, and the atmosphere was cool. Pedro Lopez, a retired store clerk from Pasadena, confessed that he had been in the mall for three hours.

"It's very agreeable here," he said, sitting on a main-floor bench, with not the least inclination to move on.

If you're not into winter sports and malls aren't your cup of tea, there's always Pasadena Superior Court. Court-watchers there are keeping their eyes on the trials being played out in air-conditioned courtrooms.

Out at the Los Angeles County Fair, at the Fairplex in Pomona, four of the exhibit halls are air-conditioned for the first time. And horse racing begins today. For $3, you can watch the races from the air-conditioned clubhouse. Or for a $5 minimum, you can take a table at the race track's Top of the Park restaurant, which has a panoramic view of the track and its own parimutuel windows.

A lot of people head for the mountains. Mt. Wilson was a moderate 89 degrees Tuesday, 20 degrees lower than some of the cities below. Just as important, Mt. Wilson weather observer Lu Rarogeiwicz said, the 5,800-foot mountain is above the smog line.

San Gabriel Valley ozone levels have been soaring into the "very unhealthful" range most days this week.

"There's a heavy blanket over the Basin," Rarogeiwicz said from his mountaintop perspective. "I can't really see into it--it's a lovely brown color. But it's clear overhead. I can see all the way to San Clemente and San Nicolas islands, between 100 and 110 miles away."

If the heat should fray tempers to the boiling point, there's plenty of room at the Pasadena Police Department lockup. "We can house 43 people here," Sgt. Jay D'Angelo said. "All of our cells are air-conditioned."

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