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Heat wave: Today will bring 'peak in heating,' forecasters say

Areas of Southern California experienced record high temperatures Saturday, and forecasters say that Sunday could be even hotter.

“Today is supposed to be the peak in heating,” National Weather Service meteorologist Carol Smith said.

Smith said that the hottest temperatures tend to get recorded in the late afternoon, between about 2 and 4 p.m. An excessive heat warning remains in place for the Antelope Valley, other valley areas, the Santa Monica Mountains and inland coastal areas. Smith said heat records could fall in any of those parts of Los Angeles County.

PHOTOS: Heat wave in the Southland

“I’m certain we’ll break day records, and it’s possible that we’ll break some all-time records today,” she said.

Specifically, she pointed to Lancaster and Palmdale, which were expecting high of 113 degrees. The area’s all-time record is 114. Woodland Hills could hit 111 degrees, while Camarillo could edge up from the high 80s to low 90s on Sunday.

The weather service forecasts temperatures of about 130 degrees at Death Valley’s Furnace Creek. At 8:30 a.m. Sunday, the mercury in the heart of the desert community stood at 112.

“This is just really strong high pressure and it’s parked over us,” Smith said. “It’s not moving. It’s not cooling off at night. We’re not getting the relief.”

According to the weather service, several desert and Inland Empire communities set records Saturday for that day of the year. Officials said the extreme heat will continue until at least Tuesday.

"It's early in the heat season. Usually our hottest months are August and September. We're not even in July yet, but this is a massive high pressure system and it's just smothering," said Bill Patzert, a climatologist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge.

A slight cooling is to start Monday and last through July 4, though temperatures will still be above normal, forecasters said. The last significant heat wave in Southern California was in 2009, when the region baked for two weeks.

In Los Angeles, the heat is a particular concern to firefighters because it comes in a year of record dry conditions that have already sparked several major brush fires in the area.

Fireworks also went on sale Friday in some areas, adding another fire danger. Fireworks will be sold in 295 designated communities in the state through the Fourth of July.

Since January, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has responded to about 2,900 fires, department spokesman Daniel Berlant said. In an average year, he said, it would have responded to fewer than 1,800 by this time.

Dry brush is a reason for the increase in fires, Berlant said. Current weather conditions are more typical of late August or early September, he said.

"We're in a long-term drought," climatologist Patzert said. "The situation is extremely crispy and dry. That equals incendiary."

Several agencies opened cooling centers — air-conditioned facilities where the public can escape the heat — in L.A. County. For information about the centers, call 211 or view an interactive map of the centers online.

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matt.stevens@latimes.com

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