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Residents Try Hard to Keep Their Cool : Weather: The temperature reaches 110 degrees in Woodland Hills. Air conditioning is among the hot items.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

When the thermometer rises, so does Max Falat’s popularity.

And Thursday, the hottest day of the year so far in the San Fernando Valley when the mercury rose to 110 degrees in Woodland Hills near Falat’s Canoga Park air-conditioning business, he was a superstar.

“I’m never short of work, but any time the temperature gets over 100 degrees, it just gets crazy,” Falat said.

Business has doubled since a recent mini-heat wave hit the San Fernando Valley, and Falat has had his hands full coping with broken air conditioners, installing new units and fixing ailing refrigerators.

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"(The heat) occurred a little later in the year,” said James McCutcheon, a meteorologist for WeatherData, which provides forecasts for The Times. “It’s been a fairly cool summer.”

The Valley’s average high for this time of year is 92 degrees. The all-time high for Sept. 9 was 115 degrees in 1979 at Pierce College. On Thursday, Van Nuys recorded a high of 105 degrees and Burbank hit 102 degrees, according to WeatherData.

While McCutcheon said a gradual cooling trend will bring temperatures down to the low 90s by early next week, such predictions were little comfort for those who suffered through Thursday’s scorching highs.

For students and teachers in the 2,767 Los Angeles Unified School District classrooms without air conditioning--about one-third in the Valley--the heat made concentration difficult.

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“We’re melting out here,” said Janie Taylor, the principal of Reseda Elementary School. “We’re sitting in the office with only one bank of lights on to keep it cool.”

In all, 30 elementary schools dismissed students 45 minutes before the scheduled end of the day and followed district guidelines which limit physical activity and recommend plenty of water breaks anytime the temperature tops 92 degrees.

At Chase Street Elementary School in Panorama City, students crowded in the shade and played quiet games like checkers and Scrabble instead of basketball or kick ball, according to Principal Diana Villafana.

“We just keep the activity level as low as we can,” Villafana said.

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The pace was quicker at swimming pool companies.

“You get more people calling that want to know how fast you can build a pool,” said Dennis Wisby, owner of Allstate Pools and Spas in Woodland Hills. Wisby said the average pool costs $25,000 and takes five months to build.

Calls were up for heat exhaustion, dehydration and overexertion, according to a city fire dispatcher.

“We are seeing people pushing their limits,” said Brian Humphrey.

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“When you combine excessive heat and smog, people find it more difficult to breathe.”

Police reported increases in domestic violence and assaults.

Trying to beat the heat and overworked technicians, people sometimes resort to frantic measures, according to Susan Danner, a receptionist at Mediterranean Heating and Air Conditioning in Van Nuys.

“It gets desperate,” Danner said. “Some people even try to offer extra money if we can get it done right now.”

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Caught off guard, many people are rushing to do what air-conditioning technicians say they should have done months ago. “They don’t expect the heat right now,” said Linda Thomas of the Residential Comfort Center. “They put off installing air conditioners, thinking summer is over. This is the hottest weather we’ve had all summer.”

At Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, the water rides were packed with people seeking refuge from the stifling temperatures.

“We had a record July and a record August,” said Eileen Harrell, a spokeswoman for the amusement park. “And with people coming to the water slides to escape the heat, we’re doing well this month, too.”


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