Some Relief Is Expected From Firecracker Days

Times Staff Writer

Things are going to get better on the weather front real soon. . . . Honest.

It will be cooler, with gentle sea breezes and balmy nights, as the Southland eases through a long July 4 weekend, National Weather Service forecasters said Wednesday.

Of course, everything is relative.

We're talking relatively cooler, gentler, balmier.

We're talking high temperatures at the Civic Center in the 90s, occasional gentle breezes off the sea--it will help a lot if you spend the weekend by the sea if you want to experience them--and nights when the lows will dip down all the way to 70 or so.

Yes, indeed, this week's daunting series of 100-plus highs is on the way out. Slowly.

The gradual cooling trend expected through the four-day holiday weekend is caused by a low-pressure area forming over the desert, setting off an onshore flow of air and weakening the atmospheric grip of that nasty Mojave Desert high that has been making life miserable lately.

Los Angeles should experience highs mostly in the low to mid-90s, with overnight lows ranging from 68 to 73. The valleys, of course, will be a bit warmer, with highs of around 100 expected. There may even be some low clouds and fog over beach communities, and there is no way, according to the weather service, that it's going to get much above 85 down by the shore.

In case you have any doubts about the weather service prediction that the worst is over, just take a look at Wednesday, which was a piece of cake weather-wise.

It got no warmer than 100 at the downtown Civic Center. That was not a record; it merely tied the 1973 mark of 100 for a July 3.

The low early Wednesday morning at the Civic Center was 75. We would be being less than truthful if we failed to point out that 75 was a record overnight minimum reading for the date; the previous mark was 69 in 1984, according to weather service statistics.

Some other highs around the Southland included Big Bear Lake, 92; Blythe, 119; Burbank, 104; Long Beach, 99; Monrovia, 107; Newport Beach, 81; Northridge, 106; Palm Springs, 118; Pasadena, 103; Santa Barbara, 80, and Woodland Hills, 114.

About 100,000 Los Angeles Unified School District students were released from classes early Wednesday because of the heat, and they probably will get out early again Friday. The order affected students in year-around schools, in which one quarter of the students take vacations each quarter, instead of all taking vacations in the summer.

No Air Conditioning

Under the order, they were let go about noon or 12:30, depending on what time classes started, instead of between 2:30 and 3 p.m. The order did not change the hours for summer school students, who are released about noon anyway, a district spokesman said.

The problem is that most school buildings are not air conditioned. But private homes and businesses with the devices were using them at a furious pace. A spokesman for the Department of Water and Power reported an afternoon peak demand of 4,740 megawatts, well below the all-time record, 4,882 megawatts, set last Sept. 5. Southern California Edison had a peak demand of 14,401 megawatts, also lower than the all-time mark of 15,189 set that same day last year.

The utilities expect the demand to ease today as many Los Angeles residents leave the city for the holiday weekend.

Wednesday was a record-breaking day for the Metropolitan Water District, which said thirsty Southlanders consumed 2.72 billion gallons, eclipsing the record set--you guessed it--Tuesday, when 2.65 billion gallons went through the district's meters.

The smog was a bit of a problem Wednesday, with first-stage alerts--unhealthy conditions for everyone--called in the San Fernando, San Bernardino, San Gabriel and Pomona-Walnut valleys, as well as the Corona-Norco area and metropolitan Riverside.

More Alerts Expected

First stage alerts were predicted for the San Gabriel and Pomona-Walnut valleys, as well as Riverside-San Bernardino and the Hemet-Elsinore areas today.

Lifeguards were expecting capacity crowds along the beaches, where those morning clouds and cooler temperatures were expected to hold sway through Sunday. The surf will run from two to four feet at 10-second intervals.

San Diego will cool off, with highs near 80 and lows in the 60s expected.

The San Francisco Bay Area should be pleasant, with variable high cloudiness, highs in the mid-60s and lows in the 50s.

Lows in the 50s

Mountain resort areas were beginning to jam up Wednesday night, with campgrounds and motels reported at or near capacity. The forecast was for the usual fair skies with highs in the 80s and lows, believe it or not, dropping into the 50s.

Of course, there are those who love the heat Los Angeles has had this week, and to them the desert beckons. Highs will range between 100 and 110 in the northern deserts and between 110 and 119 in the south, including the Palm Springs area.

Las Vegas will continue to be very hot, with highs around 110 and lows near 80.

Travelers to Arizona will find heat hanging on in Phoenix and Tucson, with highs above 100 and lows around 80.

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