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L.A. Sizzles 2nd Day : Mercury Hits 107 by Noontime

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Temperatures soared well past the 100-degree-mark and headed toward another all-time record this afternoon as Southern Californians suffered through the second day of a searing heat wave that is expected to last through the weekend.

The mercury was continuing to rise after reaching 107 at the Los Angeles Civic Center at noon today. That was just five degrees short of the all-time record for any date, set Tuesday.

Temperatures in Orange County were generally a few degrees lower but were also on the rise and appeared headed toward another record number as of mid-day. El Toro led the way with a high reading of 97 degrees around noon.

The crippling heat wave has been blamed for at least one death here--that of a 4-year-old boy who succumbed to heat exhaustion Tuesday after being accidentally locked in a parked car. Three others apparently died from the heat in Phoenix, where temperatures topped out at 122 on Tuesday.

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Hundreds of thousands of Southland residents headed this morning for area beaches, where temperatures were as much as 30 degrees cooler than communities a few miles inland.

Morning temperatures in Huntington Beach, for instance, logged in at a comfortable 68, with Newport Beach reporting 67.

Power usage reached record levels as hundreds of thousands of folks who had to stay indoors turned up their air conditioners.

But for many, there was no escape.

“It’s terrible!” said auto mechanic Elmo Stewart, 47, as he sweltered over a Subaru at a small, air-conditionless repair shop in Canoga Park, where the inside temperature had topped 102 by mid-morning.

“It got bad pretty fast, today,” Stewart said. “By 9:30 a.m., I was pretty well drained. I picked the wrong kind of job. Let me tell you!”

California Highway Patrol officers reported a rash of overheated cars that slowed Orange County freeways, and they warned motorists to avoid using air conditioners in stop-and-go traffic and check the coolant in radiators.

Tuesday’s downtown Los Angeles high--112 degrees--smashed a 107-year-old record for the date by 14 degrees and was the hottest temperature recorded here since the National Weather Service started keeping records, 97 years ago.

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The 112-degree reading came at about 5 p.m., when the thermometer jumped five degrees in a few minutes as gusting Santa Ana winds pulled superheated air from aloft down to ground level, where the Weather Service’s instruments are located.

The mercury hovered for most of the night at a sweltering 92 degrees before finally dipping to 87 at about 7 a.m. That would be the all-time record for the warmest minimum reading if the Civic Center thermometer doesn’t drop below that by midnight tonight.

It didn’t take long for things to start heating up again this morning. By 8 a.m. it was 94 degrees. By 9 a.m.--the peak of the morning rush hour--it was 100.

As they had the evening before, cars started overheating and pulling to the shoulder of the area’s freeways during the morning commute and the Southern California Rapid Transit District reported a surge in bus breakdowns.

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In one of their cruellest advisories ever, the California Highway Patrol suggested that motorists turn off their air conditioners, and even turn on their heaters, if their cars began to overheat. Mechanics explained that air-conditioners tend to make engines run extra hot, and that turning on your car’s heater draws heat from the engine.

Overheated RTD buses were coasting to a halt throughout the county, causing sweaty delays for passengers who, in some cases, were forced to wait by the curb while drivers tried running the heaters. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

“Passengers are going to have to take it in stride,” said RTD spokesman Rick Jager.


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