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Heat Wave Loses Some of Its Steam

May 23, 2000|ZANTO PEABODY

On the third day of a punishing heat wave, temperatures unexpectedly eased a bit Monday in the San Fernando Valley and nearby areas, although many highs still measured in the 90s and Lancaster established a record for the date.

The heat, coming at a time when some power plants were shut down for maintenance, prompted Southern California Edison to declare a low-level power emergency because of low reserves.

The 102 degrees measured in Lancaster broke by one degree a record set May 22, 1967. Chatsworth saw its high fall from 106 degrees Sunday to just 89 Monday. In Woodland Hills, where temperatures reached 105 Saturday, the high was 92.

The National Weather Service predicted that the heat will subside today, with temperatures dropping about 20 degrees. Hot weather is expected back for the weekend, however, said weather service forecaster Bill Hoffer.

"It was a surprise it was so cool," Hoffer said of Monday's temperatures. "Cool moist air from the ocean just kicked into the Valley for no reason."

The William S. Hart Union High School District was hit with power-usage penalties totaling about $20,000 when it refused to close Saugus High early due to the power emergency, officials said.

The district's four high schools participate in a discount-rate plan that allows Edison to choose at random which school may face early dismissal in the face of low power reserves.

Under Edison's "interruptible" rate plan, the district was one of 1,500 power customers forced to choose between suffering the heat without air-conditioning or paying as much as $10,000 an hour in penalties. Supt. Robert Lee chose to pay the higher rate to keep school in session.

"We want to do what we can to keep the students in school as long as it's possible," Lee said. "But it was not possible for us to send the students home at 12:30. We want to do what's right where it concerns the state's [power] resources, but only when we can."

Edison spokesman Tom Boyd said the unexpected heat wave hit while a number of power plants in the state were closed for maintenance.

The district paid a similar penalty in 1998, said business manager Bill Maddigan.

The plan saves the Hart school district more than $160,000 a year if there are no penalty days, although just two days of maximum penalties would erase a year's savings, Maddigan said.

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