HEAT: 110 Ties Hottest L.A. Day : 110 Ties Hottest Day Ever Recorded in L.A. : Beaches Crowded; Freeways Jammed With Overheated Vehicles; Power Use Sets Mark

Times Staff Writers

Boosters may tout Southern California as paradise, but when downtown Los Angeles reached 110 degrees Sunday to tie the hottest Civic Center temperature ever recorded, the city bore a closer resemblance to Dante’s “Inferno.”

Area hospitals reported at least seven cases of heat stroke and one child with respiratory problems related to a first-stage smog alert that was declared along Los Angeles County’s southwest coast.

Hundreds of thousands who sought refuge at the beach found massive traffic jams and 90-degree readings on the sand that could only be termed cool in a relative sense.


Others never made it there; the freeways were lined with overheated vehicles. And people who stayed home with their air conditioners helped send electricity usage to a record high for a Sunday. But even that didn’t always work. Several thousand Southern California Edison customers found themselves without power when 425 transformers were knocked out.

The only other time the downtown temperature soared so high was Sept. 1, 1955.

The record for the day--100 degrees in 1984--was easily surpassed. The overnight low, too, was the warmest of any Sept. 4--80 degrees, as compared to 73 degrees in 1984. The normal high for this date is 84 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

San Diego’s Lindbergh Field also measured a record high temperature. The airport reached 107 degrees, as compared to the previous high of 95, set in 1961.

Temperatures passed the 100-degree mark around the Los Angeles Basin, with 107 degrees in Long Beach, 108 degrees in Torrance, Burbank and Van Nuys, 109 in Northridge and 110 in Pasadena.

Today is likely to be the third day in a row with three-digit temperatures, bringing the Labor Day weekend to a blistering close, weather officials said. But “it looks like there is some relief coming. By the middle of the week, I think you’ll see a significant improvement,” said Janice Roth, a meteorologist with WeatherData Inc., which provides forecasts for The Times.


Betty Reo, a weather service spokeswoman, said the heat wave is caused by a high-pressure system hovering over the western United States. Air is flowing from the east, instead of the usual southwest-to-northeast pattern that draws in cooler offshore air, she said.

“The temperature hasn’t dropped much in the mornings or evenings because the daytime ranges were just so high that it takes a lot longer for it to cool down,” Reo said.

‘Absolutely Jammed’

Los Angeles County lifeguards estimated that 770,000 people were at beaches from San Pedro to the Ventura County line. By 10:30 a.m., left-turn lanes off Pacific Coast Highway into beach parking lots were backed up. By 3:30 p.m., the coast road was packed with bumper-to-bumper traffic and the parking lots were full, said California Highway Patrol dispatcher Robert Nuckles.

Those who got to the shoreline found it “absolutely jammed,” said Steve Page, a lifeguard at the Hermosa Beach station.

The sand was so hot that Santa Monica Hospital treated five people for burned feet. “And we got four different calls coming in about it, too,” said an emergency room nurse.

The water was warm as well. At Malibu beaches, ocean temperatures rose from 61 degrees in the morning to 66 degrees by mid-afternoon. “That’s extremely fast,” said Zuma Beach lifeguard John Renaud. Despite the rapid change, “the water is definitely the place to be today,” he said.

“You can always tell when it’s extremely hot, because as you look down the beach, you will find everybody near the water,” said lifeguard Lt. Dick Heineman, who monitors Venice, Santa Monica, Will Rogers and Topanga beaches. “The back of the beach is deserted. Nobody cares about spreading their towel out where there’s room.”

‘Hundreds Upon Hundreds’

Similarly, at Palisades Park and Clover Park in Santa Monica, lawn chairs and picnic blankets were clustered near shade trees, leaving long stretches of grass unoccupied.

Gusts of wind that felt like steam sent dry leaves scudding across deserted Civic Center streets and kicked up dirt at construction sites.

The temperature had dropped to 108 degrees by the time a crowd of 39,000 saw the Raiders kick off the football season against the San Diego Chargers at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Several spectators passed out, and one of the Raiders’ cheerleaders had to be taken off the field on a stretcher and wrapped in cold, wet towels.

Along the Santa Monica, Golden State and Pomona freeways, CHP dispatcher Nuckles said, “we had double the usual amount of overheated, disabled vehicles. Hundreds. Hundreds upon hundreds. Maybe 1,000 of them. Everybody’s got their air conditioner going; that’s what does it.”

Electricity usage, at 13,719 megawatts, was 1,643 megawatts higher than it has ever been on a Sunday, said Southern California Edison spokesman Bob Krauch. The previous high was 12,076 megawatts on July 24, 1988.

Krauch blamed the heat for scattered transformer outages in Monrovia, Montebello, Thousand Oaks, Ontario, Redlands, San Jacinto, San Bernardino and “all over Orange County.” Each transformer serves six to eight customers, he said, “and probably one person bought an extra air conditioner and so did his neighbor,” overloading every one that failed.

Bird Shows Canceled

About 100 transformers remained out of service by late Sunday afternoon, Krauch said.

Mark Cooper, an animal keeper at the Los Angeles Zoo, said all four bird shows were canceled because of the heat. Some of the 60 performing birds were panting, and their wings were drooping. So they were placed in air-conditioned training rooms. Most of the other animals were cooled with a line of mist sprayed into their cages.

Some humans sought relief at the movies. Box office workers at the Cineplex Odeon Theaters in the Beverly Center said they opened 15 minutes early to handle the large crowds. In the first half hour, 200 tickets were sold, cashier Ron Radvin said. By 4 p.m., every one of the theater’s 13 scheduled shows were sold out; 2,362 customers had walked through the turnstiles.

At Builders Emporium in Reseda, assistant manager Tom Reyes said the store sold its last two fans this morning. “We’ve got people wanting to buy anything that blows air,” he said.

There was small consolation, perhaps, in the dryness that accompanied the heat. Humidity was measured at only 19%, Roth said.

On the muggy East Coast, the air’s moistness is factored into the temperature for a “misery index.”

In downtown Los Angeles Sunday, Roth said, “the misery index makes it feel like it’s only 103 or 104.”

Times staff writers Nieson Himmel and Esther Schrader contributed to this article.