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Heat, Humidity Bake O.C.; Little Relief in Sight


The sauna that is August in Southern California set in with a vengeance Thursday, baking Orange County in a haze of record-breaking heat from the inland canyons to the beaches.

A sweltering 100 degrees was recorded at Irvine Ranch, 99 degrees in Lake Forest and 98 degrees in Tustin--all surpassing the 96 recorded in Orange County on Aug. 11, 1933, a day highlighted by a meteor shower that was seen in the county, according to an almanac compiled by local historian Jim Sleeper.

Ironically, a meteor shower was expected late Thursday night into early this morning.

"It was like an oven," Fullerton Police Cadet Dan Allen, 21, said. "It was warm. I was running my air conditioner."

And forecasters say there is little relief in sight, with highs in the hottest parts of the county today nearing triple digits: 97 in Anaheim and Irvine and 95 in Lake Forest. It was expected to top out at 93 in Santa Ana; San Juan Capistrano, 86; Laguna Beach, 83; Dana Point, 80; and Newport Beach 75.

Temperatures climbed into the mid-90s throughout much of inland Orange County on Thursday, the fourth straight day the mercury has passed the 90-degree mark, said Marty McKewon, a meteorologist for WeatherData, which does forecasts for The Times.

Other highs included 92 in Santa Ana and 76 in Newport Beach.

Even beach-goers seeking breezy respite up and down the Southern California coast were greeted instead with blasts of 90-degree-plus heat. Temperatures in balmy San Diego hit 86 degrees, breaking the second local heat record in two days.

In Dana Point, it was 84 degrees on the water, and hotter on land, where laborer Jose Salcedo toiled on Pacific Coast Highway. Amid the record-breaking heat and almost intolerable humidity, Salcedo was comforted by two best friends: his baseball cap and a water jug.

"You just have to keep drinking water," said Salcedo, 35, a Santa Ana resident who was helping to repair a crumbled hillside at the southern tip of Dana Point.

His fellow worker, Jerry Salgado of Orange, added another heat-beating device--a bandanna hugging his scalp.

"It keeps the sweat out of my eyes," said Salgado, 34. "The only shade we've got is the visors on our caps."

The moisture from tropical storm Hector that was bringing clouds into the county "has all moved to the east," McKewon said, adding that the thunderheads seen above the San Bernardino Mountains Thursday were evidence of scattered showers in the eastern deserts.

"It's going to stay hot," he said.

Hector not only brought clouds and humidity to the county, but a south swell that was increasing Thursday, particularly in Newport Beach. For surfers, the point breaks at 18th Street and 56th Street were breaking best, said Newport Beach lifeguard Lt. Jim Turner.

"The surf is about three to five feet today, and it's been good for the last couple of days," Turner said. But the waves kept lifeguards busy with more than 80 rescues a day Wednesday and Thursday, he said.

The combination of the increasingly heavy surf and a strong southerly current caused Huntington Beach lifeguards to execute several mass rescues throughout the day Thursday, said Lt. Mike Beuerlein.

As many as a dozen people were rescued at a time, although no one was seriously hurt, he said.

"The side current pushes quite a few swimmers into rip currents," Beuerlein said. "We just had five lifeguards in the water at one time between towers 3 and 5. And that wasn't the first time today."

The humidity that lingered throughout the county Thursday is expected to subside today and this weekend, McKewon said. Thursday started out at 85% humidity in the county at 7 a.m. and, by 2 p.m., had tapered off to a more typical 27%, McKewon said.

For those wilting in the heat, the good news is that an increasing onshore wind should cool the coasts today, perhaps three or four degrees, McKewon said.

But anyone traveling inland should expect to be using the air conditioner or a portable fan. Places like Burbank, Lancaster and Palmdale, where the Mercury topped 100 degrees Thursday, are expected to be in the upper 90s today, McKewon said.

Van Nuys, where it was 107 degrees Thursday, will again jump over 100 today, he said.

"The air mass is basically stagnant right now. You're just getting intense heating," McKewon said.

Over the weekend, it will remain warm and sunny with patchy low clouds at the coast in the morning and at night, McKewon said. Highs will stay in the 70s to low 80s at the coast, and up into the mid-90s inland, he said.

Unlike areas of the San Gabriel Valley, where air quality hit hazardous levels Thursday, smog levels were generally low throughout Orange County, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

McKewon said the heat wave is due to a strong high pressure system. The system is supposed to be over the Texas Panhandle this time of year, but instead has migrated westward.

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