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It's a mad dash for the beach

On another day of record Southland heat, thousands hit the coast for relief from soaring inland temperatures.

May 18, 2008|Robert J. Lopez | Times Staff Writer

Santos Bernal got up at sunrise Saturday at his Bakersfield home with one plan in mind: hit the beach.

It mattered little that it was two hours away.

He and his wife loaded their cooler and their two sons, 2 and 7, into the car and made for the sand.

"We had to get away from the heat," said Bernal, 26, relaxing near the water's edge at Venice Beach, while his sons, Leo and Elijah, built a sand castle.

Bernal and his wife, Melissa, 22, insist that this is a routine they plan to repeat.

"It's going to be a hot summer," said Santos, a radiographer who X-rays oil wells.

And it's not even summer yet.

Thousands of people around the region reacted to the early onslaught of sweltering heat by flocking to Southern California beaches Saturday, a day of record-breaking temperatures.

A high pressure system lodged over Southern California has sent inland and valley temperatures soaring. Records were set in Long Beach (93), Woodland Hills (102), at UCLA (92) and at Los Angeles International Airport (89). Downtown L.A. tied its record of 96, which was last felt 116 years ago in 1892.

"We're about 20 degrees above normal for this time of year," said Jamie Meier, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

The beaches offered a respite from the blistering temperatures. Highs on the coast included 71 at the Santa Monica Pier, 71 in Malibu and 85 in Redondo Beach. In Orange County, Newport Beach reported a high of 76; in San Diego County, Del Mar posted 79 and Carlsbad 83.

Temperatures are expected to drop today, a relief to firefighters who were close to fully containing a wildfire near Mt. Baldy that had burned at least 460 acres.

Back at the coast, the stretch of beach between the Venice and Santa Monica piers was packed with colorful umbrellas, people playing volleyball and revelers dipping their toes in the 62-degree water. By 1 p.m., the sand's temperature hit 80 degrees, tempered by a refreshing ocean breeze.

Nicole Alonzo, 27, and Daylynn Weinburg, 28, drove to Venice Beach from Victorville, where temperatures were in the upper 90s.

The two women had been looking at the weather forecasts online and decided to visit Venice for the first time.

"It's perfect here," Alonzo said, sitting near their pop-up canopy. "We got the Frisbee, plenty to eat and drink, and lots of sunscreen."

It wasn't perfect for those who didn't leave early enough for the beach, such as Noah Saxe, 73, of Granada Hills. He had to battle traffic all the way there.

"It was terrible," Saxe said.

When Saxe and other relief-seekers arrived, they joined lines of cars looking for parking, which caused traffic jams in beach parking lots.

At noon, a two-block-long line of cars waited on North Venice Boulevard because the 200-space parking lot was full. The situation was even worse at the Venice Pier parking lot. A line of cars stretched along four blocks of Washington Boulevard.

"This is crazy," said a frustrated driver.

In Orange County, the scorching weather doubled the number of people who usually visit Huntington Beach this time of year, and lifeguards were scrambling to beef up their roster, said marine safety Lt. Mike Baumgartner.

"We're having a summer day with springtime staffing," he said. "We're extremely busy."

At San Diego beaches, large crowds provided the first test of a booze ban adopted by the City Council after a beach riot last Labor Day.

"It makes our job a lot easier not having to deal with rowdy people who've been drinking," said San Diego lifeguard Nick Lerma. "The crowd is big but very family-friendly."

One of the more crowded strips of sand was at Solana Beach. The scare caused by a fatal shark attack in April has worn off, lifeguards said.

"It's like it never happened," lifeguard Rob McPhee said.

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robert.lopez@latimes.com

Times staff writers Tony Perry, David Haldane and David Pierson contributed to this report.

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