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Relief’s in the Air as Readings Stay in 90s

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles still baked under smoggy skies Thursday. The area just baked less, and life started to come back to normal.

Parking attendant Edward Espinosa pointed to a thermometer at his lot on Spring Street. It registered in the 90s, instead of the record-shattering 100-degree-plus heat earlier in the week.

“It’s sooo much nicer,” he said.

On the heat wave’s third day, temperatures fell dramatically back, topping out at just 94 degrees at the Los Angeles Civic Center on Thursday afternoon.

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The humidity rose correspondingly, with levels ranging from 68% to 25% on Thursday compared to Wednesday’s parching readings of 26% to 11%.

And power consumption, which had reached all-time record levels Tuesday and Wednesday, fell back as well, utility officials said.

Temperatures were still more than 10 degrees above normal for the date, but even so, a little more life emerged on Los Angeles streets than was evident earlier in the week.

Mothers with children in tow walked on 3rd Street, carrying grocery bags; old ladies meandered along Fairfax Avenue, clutching umbrellas against the sun; al fresco diners ventured back onto the outdoor patios of Melrose Avenue restaurants. “We couldn’t even put the tables out Wednesday, everybody stayed inside,” said Sharon Stevens, cashier at Chopstix.

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Even though six Los Angeles Unified School District elementary schools closed early again Thursday for lack of air conditioning, “things were better,” said Maria Ybave, an office assistant at the Murchison Street school in East Los Angeles. The cooler temperatures were a big relief there, she explained, because Thursday was graduation day for the sixth-graders and the ceremony had to be held outside.

“When it gets very hot, the children get drained and their behavior acts up. But the weather was better, so everything went well,” Ybave said.

The break in temperatures didn’t seem to lessen the stream of customers looking for air conditioners and fans at Sears Roebuck and Co.'s Santa Monica store.

“We’ve sold $30,000 worth,” saleswoman Gina Triplicata gushed. “It’s great. Everyone’s on commission. We get 3%.”

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But business had not recouped for some. Flower traders at the downtown Los Angeles Flower Market reported depressed sales earlier in the week because their wholesale customers were afraid to transport heat-sensitive flowers in their trucks.

And things didn’t improve Thursday, when public customers are welcome, Diana Carrillo, a receptionist at the San Lorenzo Nursery said. “On a normal Thursday, we do quite a bit of public business,” she said, “but due to the heat, once again our business was slow.”

Some veterinarians reported an increase in animal patients. George Shaw, a large- and small-animal practitioner in Sun Valley, said he had treated several dogs for heatstroke and “a couple of horses for heat colic.”

“People ought not to be riding horses and should be keeping them in the shade,” he said. As for small pets, Shaw added, “it’s especially tough on animals taking any heart medication, just as with people.”

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The death toll from the record-breaking temperatures reached four, the Los Angeles County coroner reported, after two men, one 57 and one 59, died at Midway Hospital in Los Angeles on Wednesday for heat-related illnesses. They were not identified.

On Tuesday, 4-year-old Francisco Hernandez died after crawling into an abandoned car in Pacoima, and 37-year-old Fred Soto of El Monte also died from heat.

The Southern California Edison Co. said its 4 million customers had used 15,986 megawatts by 3 p.m. Thursday, well below its record usage of 17,647 megawatts Wednesday. The Department of Water and Power’s 1.3 million customers used 4,964 megawatts, compared to 5,137 megawatts the previous day.

Temperatures reached 74 in Santa Monica, 93 in Culver City, 95 in Van Nuys and 107 in Pasadena. The largest drops in temperature were recorded in Avalon on Santa Catalina Island, which fell from a high of 101 Wednesday to 70, and Santa Barbara, which dropped from 109 to 80.

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In contrast, temperatures in desert communities such as Blythe, with 117, and Needles and Palm Springs, both 114, changed little from Wednesday.

Meteorologist Steve Burback of WeatherData Inc., which provides forecasts for The Times, said the coast and some inland areas will continue cooling, with temperatures in the 70s or 80s, thanks to a “marine layer (that) has pushed inland a little bit.”

But Burback said that condition will not help the inland valleys, which he predicted will continue in the 90s and lower 100s, until the high-pressure area generating the hot weather moves eastward. “They won’t have much relief until later in the weekend,” he said.


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