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Sunshine and faux snow

Winter festival belies record-breaking warm weather

December 13, 2010|Scott Gold

A blinding winter sun and clear blue skies melted five-decade-old records around Los Angeles on Sunday, driving people to beaches and parks to soak up a winter heat wave that pushed temperatures into the upper 80s.

Thermometers at Los Angeles International Airport and UCLA broke records set in 1952. Long Beach, Burbank, Oxnard and Camarillo broke record highs set in the 1980s. In downtown Los Angeles, temperatures scraped a 115-year-old high of 86, but fell a degree short.

Revelers at the annual Winter Holiday Festival in downtown's Pershing Square were in blissful denial as scores of children lined up to sled down a 12-foot, 100-ton hill of snow, albeit the man-made version.

Many came clad in only-in-L.A. fashion statements -- mittens with tank tops, miniskirts with snow boots. Parents lined the hill with video cameras and camera phones as a city staff member sat on top of the hill, giving each kid a push and sweating under a Santa hat.

"I don't know the last time he saw snow," Jordan Henry said as he watched his 6-year-old son, Jonah, sled down the hill. "We'll see if it stays all day."

Dora Williams of Cudahy was born in Middletown, Ohio, where Monday's forecast calls for a low of 12 degrees. As she watched her 8-year-old son, Joaquin, sled down the hill, she said she preferred to see snow this way.

"It's a blessing to have it," she said. "It really lifts your spirits."

The festival also included arts and crafts, puppet shows and other attractions. Raquel Favela, a city recreation assistant and organizer, said the snow would remain open Sunday until the kids were done -- "or as long as it doesn't melt."

She said organizers were expecting roughly 2,000 kids over the course of the weekend.

At the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia, strollers stuck to the shade, and visitors stripped down to T-shirts and ran barefoot in the hot grass.

"The weather here is great, especially compared to Moscow," said Eugene, a 26 year-old visiting from the Russian capital, where temperatures were hovering around 20 degrees with snow flurries.

"It's beautiful," said Christine Ma as she strolled with family members. "I just moved here from New York!"

Temperatures in nearby San Gabriel hit 89 degrees, breaking the record of 88 set in 1988. It was one of several records broken in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, said Jamie Meier, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

The high temperatures were caused by an unseasonably strong upper-level, high-pressure weather system, combined with a couple days of weak offshore airflow, Meier said.

Sunday was expected to have been the peak of the heat, although temperatures will remain high on Monday. Temperatures are expected to drop significantly Tuesday, giving way to rain toward the end of the week and the weekend.

For those looking to cool off, Downtown on Ice -- the city's outdoor ice rink, and free concert venue -- remains open every day in Pershing Square, including holidays, through Jan. 17. Cost is $6 to skate and $2 for skate rentals; a Metro transit pass earns a $1 discount. To see a schedule of concerts and entertainment, go to www.laparks.org.

scott.gold@latimes.com

Times staff writer Jason Felch contributed to this report.

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