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Airports, Roads Packed for Last Summer Fling : Labor Day: Sunny weather is predicted for the weekend. With heavy traffic expected, more than 1,000 CHP officers will be working the freeways.

September 04, 1993|JULIE TAMAKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Thousands of motorists took to the highways while hundreds of others packed airports Friday as Angelenos embarked on their last great escape of the summer.

Labor Day, the first Monday in September celebrated in this country and Canada to honor labor, is expected to be ushered in this year by a three-day spate of warm weather.

Temperatures in the San Fernando Valley are expected to range from highs in the mid-90s to overnight lows in the mid-60s, with patchy early morning clouds predicted for Sunday and Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

"It looks like a nice weekend for the Los Angeles Basin," said James McCutcheon, a meteorologist for WeatherData, the weather tracking firm used by The Times. "The days will be sunny and warm with clear skies at night."

A first-stage smog alert is predicted today for the San Gabriel Valley, but the Southland's air quality is expected to improve throughout the weekend, according to Bruce Selik, a meteorologist for the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

"Unofficially at the moment, it looks like there will be air quality improvement on Sunday and . . . possibly a dramatic improvement on Monday," Selik said.

The forecasts are certain to please thousands of campers expected to flood the state's 260 parks and beaches throughout the Labor Day holiday.

"It's the last big weekend of the summer, which means traditionally all state campgrounds from San Diego to Morro Bay (in San Luis Obispo County) are full," said Wes Chapin, a spokesman for the California Park Service. "People have been making reservations for this weekend for the last eight weeks."

Invariably, the quest to relax by some triggers more work for others.

The California Highway Patrol, for example, will be out in full force with more than 1,000 officers scheduled to work the weekend as CHP officials in Los Angeles County brace for an onslaught of holiday traffic.

"Traditionally, traffic Labor Day weekend is usually a lot heavier," CHP Officer William Preciado said. "During the major holidays, we see an increase in drunken drivers and we're out there to arrest them before they can cause any accidents."

Last year over the Labor Day weekend, 36 people died in accidents on California highways, five of them in Los Angeles County, Preciado said. CHP officers also arrested 2,218 motorists on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, with 553 of those arrests made in Los Angeles County.

Though the exact number of motorists expected to flood the Southland's roads and highway's this weekend remains uncertain, the Automobile Club of Southern California has experienced a 7% increase in requests for customized automobile road maps for trips this Labor Day compared to last year, said Jeffrey Spring, a AAA spokesman. "Based on that, we believe it's going to be a heavily traveled holiday."

Meanwhile, travelers also packed parking lots and crowded terminals at the Burbank Airport as they fled for the weekend.

"Everybody reports being extremely busy," airport spokesman Victor Gill said. "They're fully booked or overbooked.

"It's heavier than usual weekend travel," Gill added. "Usually, we're not necessarily booked 100% so we're right at the edge of capacity."

But for those Angelenos who missed out on the summer's last getaway, Chapin of the state Park Service, had a bit of advice.

"I encourage them to keep trying," he said. "Some of the best camping weather is coming up in the next couple of months when the water and ocean are still warm and most campgrounds have space available."

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