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Troublesome Fog and Clouds May Settle In for the Weekend

Times Staff Writer

Low clouds and fog intermittently gloomed the valleys and coastline of Southern California Thursday, claiming at least two lives, touching off multi-car traffic accidents, slowing operations at most airports--and showing signs of settling in for the weekend.

National Weather Service meteorologists said the inland high-pressure area that kept skies clear and temperatures high earlier in the week is weakening and allowing a stronger sea breeze to push moisture across the shoreline and into the city.

That fog claimed its first life Wednesday night. National Transportation Safety Board investigators said the pilot of a single-engine Beech Bonanza had already missed one landing approach in fog that limited visibility to half a mile at Orange County’s John Wayne Airport, and was trying again when he crashed in a nearby parking lot.

Investigators said air controllers had twice warned the pilot, identified as Walter Scott Biddle, 58, of Newport Beach, that his second approach was too low. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

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A second fatality came nearly 12 hours later, when a car driven by a 16-year-old youth who had received his driver’s license only three months ago collided with a four-wheel-drive vehicle and burst into flames in the southbound lanes of the Riverside Freeway near Corona.

Efforts by passers-by to rescue the youth, identified as Brandon R. Paul, from the burning automobile were unsuccessful, and all southbound lanes remained tied up for 90 minutes.

Nearly two dozen other accidents in the vicinity were attributed to drifting patches of fog during the morning--as was a chain-reaction pileup involving 11 automobiles and eight big-rig trucks in southbound lanes of Interstate 15 near Jurupa Road in Ontario.

California Highway Patrol Officer John Gomez said two automobiles collided at about 8 a.m., and “when the other vehicles slowed abruptly in the fog, they were rear-ended by other cars and pushed into each other.”

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Only two minor injuries were reported, but the freeway was tied up for an hour.

Elsewhere, a blanket of heavy fog that shrouded beaches of Santa Monica Bay forced a private helicopter to land on the sand near Santa Monica Pier. The pilot of the Bell LongRanger said he was en route from Oxnard to El Segundo with four passengers when weather conditions deteriorated below the limit of safety. He said he intended to remain on the beach until the fog lifted, but poor visibility kept him on the ground through the night.

Pilots of jet transports had no such easy-landing safety options. They found their flight schedules occasionally interrupted or slowed by poor visibility at most major airports in the Los Angeles area. Authorities at Los Angeles International, Burbank, Long Beach, Ontario and John Wayne airports said they were able to continue operations through the day, though there were occasional slowdowns when conditions dropped below acceptable minimums.

Deadly Waves

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And fog was not the only hazard: Freak waves believed generated by a storm to the south swept three fishermen off a rocky shelf near Resort Point on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

Lifeguard Lt. Wally Mullican said one of the men managed to climb back to safety and recover the body of one of his companions, but paramedics and a helicopter were unable to find the third man and efforts to resuscitate the man who was dragged ashore were unsuccessful.

High temperature at Los Angeles Civic Center Thursday was 84 degrees with relative humidity ranging from 41% to 87%, and forecasters said today should be 8 or 9 degrees cooler, with high cloudiness scheduled to reinforce the low clouds and fog by Saturday.

Cloudy at Beach

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Beaches were expected to see dense low clouds and fog with only partial afternoon clearing through the weekend, and forecasters said beach temperatures should stay in the lower 60s, with water temperature about 10 degrees cooler.

San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountain skies should be clearer, with a few high clouds and the wind rising to 15 m.p.h. at times, while temperatures were expected to drop into the freezing range at resort levels.

Forecasters said deserts should see fair skies with high clouds, afternoon winds to 15 or 20 m.p.h. and temperatures ranging from the mid-80s in the high desert to the mid-90s in the low desert.


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