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Hottest U.S. City: Santa Ana--and It Isn't Over Yet

February 05, 2001|SEEMA MEHTA and JESSICA GARRISON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Temperatures that broke national records descended on Orange County on Sunday, with more unseasonable weather expected today.

"The warmest temperature anywhere in Southern California [and the nation] was in Santa Ana," said Alan Shoemaker, a meteorologist with Madison, Wis.-based Weather Central Inc., which provides forecasts for The Times.

The mercury hit 93 degrees there, shattering a 1986 record of 86 degrees. Temperatures are normally in the high 60s in Orange County this time of year. High temperatures broke local records throughout California as far north as the Bay Area, he said.

Orange County's coastline Sunday looked more like July than February as warm temperatures drew crowds to the beach.

"It looks like a packed summer day out here," said Andrew Powell, a lifeguard at San Clemente State Beach, where the water temperature was 64 degrees.

A ridge of hot air from Mexico brought the heat, and temperatures are expected to be in the 70s and 80s across Southern California today.

"You have one more day," Shoemaker said. "After this warm air gets pushed out, it looks like there's going to be a pretty breezy or windy stretch of weather coming up."

A storm system developing in the southern Rocky Mountains will increase winds across California, Shoemaker said. Temperatures will dip into the 60s for the rest of the week in Orange County, with high winds in the canyons.

At Main Beach, "it was fantastic, and bikini watch was major," said longtime Laguna Beach resident Roger von Butow.

"Laguna was like a summer day," von Butow said. "And there were good waves--three to four feet. I caught a few. As we say in Laguna, it was primo."

Just off San Clemente, Powell said he saw a gray whale breaching--a surer sign of winter than cool air or cloudy skies, he said.

The warm weather also brought its share of summer problems: skaters crashed into each other, bicyclists fell over, and some boogie boarders were trapped in rip currents and had to be rescued by lifeguards.

Some local business owners profited from Sunday's unseasonably high temperatures.

A frazzled worker who picked up the phone at Santa Ana's Carnation Ice Cream Land said, "Now is too busy. You call tomorrow," before quickly hanging up.

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