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California and the West

Summer Simmer

Across the Southland, People Struggle to Beat the Heat

July 28, 1998|BETTINA BOXALL and TOM GORMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Chris Rouly sat on a bench in downtown Riverside, happily toasting in the midafternoon heat blanketing Southern California.

"My office is so air-conditioned, it's almost uncomfortable," said Rouly as he leafed through papers under a broiling sun. "The desks are as cold as those metal tables you find at doctors' offices. So it feels good to be outdoors. It's my chance to thaw out."

If you were outdoors Monday, thawing out was not a problem as temperatures crept above 100 degrees across the region for the second straight day. For the most part, the heat was not record-breaking, but it was enough to send more than half a million people to Los Angeles County beaches Sunday, push up power consumption and bake away any lingering memories of the cool, rainy spring.

The hot spell, caused by a high pressure system, is expected to continue today, retreat a bit and then return at the end of the week.

"It's not that unusual. It's pretty expected as long as it doesn't go on for days and days," said WeatherData Inc. meteorologist Jeff House. "It's just summertime in California."

High readings in the Los Angeles area Monday included 108 degrees in Chatsworth, 105 in Monrovia, 104 in Woodland Hills and a mere 94 at the Civic Center, eight degrees below the downtown record of 102 for the date, set in 1972.

Out in the deserts, it was a lot hotter Monday, with top readings of 123 in Thermal, 119 in Palm Springs and 110 in Yucca Valley. It was 108 in Lancaster, topping the old record there of 107, set in 1980.

High temperatures across much of the West were taxing the regional power supply, prompting the board that oversees California's power grid to issue a Stage 2 alert Monday afternoon. With state power reserves less than half the desired minimum, consumers were asked to voluntarily reduce electrical usage and business customers participating in a reduced-rate program experienced temporary power interruptions and shutdowns.

In Los Angeles, Monday was one of the top days ever for electrical power consumption.

"We're using an extraordinary amount of electricity," said Los Angeles Department of Water and Power spokeswoman MaryAnne Pierson. "We're in the top 10 days for energy usage and by the end of the day we'll probably be in the top five."

On Monday, about 100,000 people headed for the busiest stretch of Los Angeles County beaches, where the air temperatures were in the civilized 70s. On Sunday, sun-screened bodies were sprawled toe to toe across the sand, with 550,000 heat refugees visiting beaches from Marina del Rey to Las Tunas Beach, making it one of the most crowded days in years.

Despite the soaring temperatures, there was no rash of weather-related injuries or serious fires. A Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman said paramedics had not had to tend to a single heat victim.

And overall, people seemed to be sweating with equanimity.

"The heat's not too bad, you get used to it," said construction worker Cary Clark as he swept a sizzling stretch of Foothill Boulevard in Azusa while waiting for a truckload of 180-degree asphalt mix to spread over the road. "It's better than working in the rain. When it's raining and cold you get sick, and I can't afford to stay home."

Under a giant umbrella on Huntington Beach, Barry Jensen and his family didn't see anything to complain about. They were, after all, from Texas, which has been broiling in unrelenting heat for weeks.

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Times staff writers Peter Hong, Solomon Moore and Tini Tran contributed to this story.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Heat Wave

Few records were broken Monday, but the hot spell is expected to continue this week.

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Location Monday's high Record for day Burbank 97 108 (1934) Chatsworth 108 114 (1995) L.A. Civic Center 94 102 (1972) Long Beach 88 100 (1972) Woodland Hills 104 110 (1995)

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Sources: National Weather Service; WeatherData, Inc.

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