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Hot spell won't break

Southland heat that caused one death is forecast to continue.

June 20, 2008|Carla Rivera and Molly Hennessy-Fiske | Times Staff Writers

Unseasonably warm weather and low humidity tightened its grip on Southern California on Thursday, breaking temperature records and prompting the highest June energy demand on record in Los Angeles.

And the worst is yet to come: The blistering heat is expected to peak today, with triple-digit temperatures, continued dry conditions and little relief until late into the weekend. The heat index posed a danger to human and animal life, authorities said. At least one heat-related death, of a woman in San Bernardino County, was reported.

The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for temperatures of 105 degrees and above for most Los Angeles County valleys and mountains and Ventura County mountains for today. In addition, the relative humidity in most valley areas was forecast to be only 10% to 15% and in single digits in the deserts.

"It's a fairly dry heat, but temperatures are so warm that it becomes dangerous to the human body to have extended exposure to it," said Todd Hall, senior forecaster for the National Weather Service. "Try to stay cool, stay out of the sun. If you're outside, try to work in the shade. Exercise in the early morning or evening. Drink plenty of fluids and make sure to keep in touch with friends and neighbors, especially the elderly."

Forecasters posted "red flag" warnings for fire danger until Saturday night due to the low humidity and wind conditions in some areas. And unhealthy air quality was reported in the Santa Clarita Valley and eastern San Gabriel Valley.

Los Angeles County opened 42 daytime cooling centers for seniors and urged people to stay indoors with air conditioning.

Meanwhile, energy use among Los Angeles city residents and businesses spiked to 5,854 megawatts about 4 p.m. Thursday, the highest June load on record, the city's Department of Water and Power reported. The previous record was 5,531 megawatts in 2006. The all-time record peak demand is 6,165, and today's demand might approach that record, said spokesman Joe Ramallo.

The agency reported outages that affected about 2,000 customers Thursday, including in Northridge, Wilmington and Eagle Rock.

A temperature record was set Thursday in Woodland Hills at 109 degrees, and Oxnard tied its record of 88.

In Ventura, a brush fire that broke out at 11 a.m. Thursday and scorched 25 acres near City Hall downtown was 80% contained and was expected to be fully contained by evening. No buildings were reported as threatened.

In eastern San Bernardino County, a 77-year-old Arizona woman died and her husband remained hospitalized after they wandered from their car in 116-degree heat Monday near Parker Dam, officials said today.

Joyce Sanders of Oracle was found by a passerby shortly before 7 p.m. Monday at the foot of a hill near Black Meadow Landing Road beside her husband, Virgil Sanders, 89, said county Sheriff's Sgt. Tim Smith. She was pronounced dead at the scene, he said.

Virgil Sanders was flown to a hospital in Phoenix, where he was treated for second- and third-degree burns, and was listed in critical condition, Smith said.

Investigators were still trying to determine why the couple were on the isolated stretch of road and why they failed to return to the car, Smith said. Virgil Sanders initially left the car to relieve himself nearby, Smith said. The couple were found about 80 feet from their 2003 Ford Taurus, which was not low on gas, Smith said.

It was not clear whether they had a cellphone, he said. They were not registered at the nearby Black Meadow Landing Resort, he said.

Smith said there is usually a heat-related fatality this time of year, and with triple-digit temperatures expected today, he urged drivers to plan ahead.

"If you're going to be in a vehicle, make sure you carry lots of water and you don't get below half a tank of gas in the desert areas. Carry a cellphone and let people know where you're going," Smith said, directing his advice at elderly drivers in particular. "It doesn't take long in those conditions with these people's ages to get in serious trouble."

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carla.rivera@latimes.com

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molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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Times staff writer Steve Chawkins contributed to this report.

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