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Some Like It Hot--the Rest Go to the Beach

Weather: Weekend-level crowding reported on Newport shore. Flash flood blamed for death of Marine near Twentynine Palms.

July 14, 1999|ERIC MALNIC and IOANA PATRINGENARU | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Crowds flocked to Orange County beaches again Tuesday as many residents fled oppressive heat and humidity inland.

But forecasters promised cooler weather in the days ahead, ending a tempestuous tropical weather system that has spawned thunder showers in the region's high desert and mountain areas. The latest victim of flash floods was a Marine swept to his death Tuesday near Twentynine Palms.

Newport Beach lifeguards reported 75,000 people had shown up at the beaches near Newport Pier by late afternoon, a total only slightly below the 80,000 average for a summer weekend day.

The beaches "really provided a respite for people who live away from the coast," said Lt. John Blauer, of the city's Fire and Marine Department.

Beach crowds at Huntington Beach, estimated at 30,000, were about average, lifeguards said. Both beaches reported more rescues than normal because of high tides. No injuries were reported.

Among those camped out on the sand near the Newport Pier was Barbara Davis of Rancho Cucamonga, who came to escape triple-digit temperatures at home.

"There's some wind, so it's not scorching hot," said Davis, a paralegal who spent the day on the beach with a small party of family and friends. "It's just right. It really is."

The tropical weather system that has been hovering over Southern California in recent days brought thundershowers to the mountains and deserts Tuesday afternoon.

A Marine died early Tuesday after being swept away in a flash flood near Twentynine Palms, authorities reported.

Officials said heavy rains hammered the Marine Corps' desert training center shortly before midnight Monday, unleashing torrents of muddy water that engulfed a light armored vehicle containing four Marines.

The flood waters pulled Lance Cpl. Javier D. Ponce, 21, of Ontario, Ore., from the vehicle, according to Marine 1st Lt. Patricia Restrepo, a public information officer at the center.

She said Ponce was found downstream about an hour later. He was rushed by helicopter to the Navy hospital in Twentynine Palms, where he was pronounced dead at 2:24 a.m. The cause of death was not immediately determined.

Ponce's death was the second blamed on flash floods spawned by the recent siege of monsoonal weather. On Sunday, a landslide caused by flooding in the San Bernardino Mountains hamlet of Forest Falls claimed the life of 36-year-old Allison Crow and destroyed about 18 homes.

Authorities on Tuesday discounted any weather link in another inland death on Tuesday. Christopher J. Hertzog, 15, collapsed and died during football practice in 103-degree temperatures in Upland on Tuesday. But a preliminary autopsy found the teen died as a result of a heart condition, according to the San Bernardino County coroner's office.

The monsoonal system that brought the heat and rain to Southern California will start moving east and the weather should start improving today, said Guy Pearson, a meteorologist with WeatherData Inc., which provides forecasts for The Times.

Orange County temperatures, with highs in the upper 70s at the beach and mid-80s inland in recent days, should drop by three to four degrees today, with morning clouds expected for the rest of the week, Pearson said.

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