YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Triple Digits Leave It Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot

Some try to chill out, others take care of business on a scorching Labor Day holiday.

September 07, 2004|Louis Sahagun, Nora Zamichow and Claire Luna | Times Staff Writers

The summer season drew to a quintessential Southern California close Monday, with sizzling temperatures, snarls of traffic and beads of sweat dripping off any inlander stepping outside.

As scorching heat reached triple digits in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys on Labor Day, Southlanders flocked to shores and pools, cranked up air conditioners, carefully angled their fans or sought shade.

Welcome to September, the month in which everyone downs lattes with ice.

The warming trend accelerated Sunday with record-breaking temperatures for the date at Los Angeles International Airport, where the mercury reached 101 degrees, and Torrance, where it hit 99 degrees. Relief is not expected until later this week, said Mike Wofford, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

At beaches, the sand was so hot that sun worshipers donned sandals to avoid burning their feet. Parking lots were mobbed with crowds particularly eager to sunbathe after a series of cool, foggy mornings. While many consider Labor Day the end of summer, the season doesn't officially end until the autumnal equinox -- this year on Sept. 22.

"Summer finally showed up," said lifeguard Capt. Angus Alexander, who oversees beaches from Marina del Rey to Topanga, a stretch where about 400,000 swarmed the shores. Another 500,000 hit the beaches from Marina del Rey south to San Pedro, said lifeguard Capt. Mike McIlroy, who oversees that region.

In West Hills, stockbroker Danny Thornburg attempted to flout the heat. As neighbors were cocooned indoors, Thornburg, 57, donned his running shoes in the middle of the day. His wife, a nurse, advised him to wait. Thornburg was unpersuaded. He took off up a steep hill.

"It's unpleasant but necessary," said Thornburg, panting. "But I have to tell you, I'm about ready for a cold beer."

Others, too, were determined to carry out their plans for the day, despite the soaring temperatures. Salesman Tony Betcheri stood outside on a small used-car lot that seemed to double as a furnace.

"I'm just having good, clean American fun -- selling cars on a hot summer day," Betcheri said forlornly, his face covered with a sheen of sweat. Betcheri had not made a sale at the Reseda lot by midafternoon.

Dan Scheerschmidt put it this way: "The heat hurts."

Scheerschmidt, 52, a special education teacher, held a yard sale at his Reseda home Monday. Most customers were eager to retreat to their air-conditioned cars -- a fact that took its toll on sales.

Elvis Bustamante, 20, felt anxious about the heat when he went to Van Nuys to help his brother-in-law clean his yard.

"Oh man, we're in for it," Bustamante recalled thinking.

The two men worked side by side with Bustamante's younger brother, Sam, 14. To help keep cool, they had an ice chest of sodas and water. Their game plan for the afternoon: thin the bushes, trim the roses and saw several tree limbs. They hoped to finish about 3 p.m.

Sam, dizzy from the heat, fled to the shady porch. It meant, his older brother said, a longer day for the other two.

"But you know," said Bustamante, "it beats sitting around at home."

Necessity put Maria Garcia, 22, behind a small wooden cart loaded with a block of ice for snow cones along with onion rings, corn on the cob and churros. Perspiring, Garcia pushed the cart, trolling for customers near a Van Nuys apartment complex.

"It's really, really hot, but if I don't work, I don't eat and I don't pay the rent," she said.

On Monday, the temperature reached 98 degrees in downtown Los Angeles -- a few degrees shy of the record for that date. In Oxnard, it was 87, or three degrees under the record, according to the National Weather Service.

In Orange County, sizzling heat sent droves of families, teens and panting dogs to the coastline for relief. Colorful umbrellas packed the sand at Laguna Beach, where winded lifeguard Darryl Reames said the heat produced a hectic day.

"I don't think I've been out of the water for more than five minutes all day," said Reames, 19, before excusing himself to guide in a boogie boarder.

Beth Delgado, 50, of Costa Mesa, planted in an Adirondack chair with the new issue of Vogue in north Newport Beach, said the warmth was good -- if a bit overdue.

"It's nice to finally get some summer weather on the last weekend of summer," she said.

A rock jetty at Dana Point Harbor drew dozens of families in dinghies to enjoy the calm water of a no-wake zone amid the larger boats. Several of the small craft bore dogs like hood ornaments, and nearer to the rocks a few pets paddled around in the water, a handful clad in doggie life jackets.

"In this heat you have to be close to the water, but it's a lot nicer here without the crowds of the beach," said Jeff Reeves, 34, of Brea, watching his shepherd mix, Koda, nuzzle a chocolate Labrador.

By Monday evening, as temperatures began to ease, throngs took to the roads. Holiday weekend traffic killed 37 statewide; of those, four were in Los Angeles County, according to a California Highway Patrol official. Last year, 37 reportedly were killed over the Labor Day weekend; of those, five were in Los Angeles County.

Los Angeles Times Articles