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Fleeing the Heat : Weather: Fogged-in beaches give haven to many escaping the over-100-degree temperatures inland.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

While hundreds of thousands sweltered under a Santa Ana condition that pushed temperatures well above 100 degrees in some Los Angeles-area communities for the second straight day, there were a few--some of them lucky, some of them just sneaky--who found respite at the beach.

Charles, 29, Heather, 16, and Mary, 17, were among those at the Santa Monica Pier who preferred not to tell anyone their last names.

“I’m supposed to be at work in Lancaster,” Charles admitted with a sheepish grin. “It’s too hot out there today to work.”

“We, well, you know, are kind of supposed to be in school,” Heather said with a nervous giggle as Mary, her classmate at a San Fernando Valley high school--they wouldn’t say which one--stood by apprehensively.

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“Instead, we’re, ah, here.”

Rhonda Dinges, 25, of Kalamazoo, Mich., didn’t feel guilty at all. She’s out here on vacation with her husband and their two young children. But she was a little disappointed.

No one had told her that the hot, dry winds scouring the inland valleys would die out short of the coast, leaving a dense overcast blanket at many of the beaches.

“We’ve been staying in Woodland Hills, where it’s hot, so we brought the kids here to cool off a bit,” she said as she peered through the murk at Santa Monica. “I expected some smog. What I didn’t expect was all this fog.”

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Curtis Brack, a meteorologist with WeatherData Inc., said it’s all because of “a classic Santa Ana condition” generated by a massive high-pressure system spreading across the desert Southwest.

Brack said this high pressure inland generates winds that head toward the lower pressure over the cool waters off the coast. The down-slope winds heat and dry out by compression as they sweep down mountain passes and into the coastal valleys surrounding Los Angeles.

High temperatures on Monday reached 106 degrees in Woodland Hills and Monrovia, 105 in Van Nuys, 103 in Burbank and Ontario and 102 in Glendale, Pasadena and San Gabriel.

It was 96 at the Los Angeles Civic Center, which is plenty warm, but still 11 degrees below the record for the date of 106, set in 1963. It was plenty dry, too, with relative humidity ranging between 14% and 48%.

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Among the driest and hottest were 200 Los Angeles County firefighters who spent three hours battling a 20-acre brush-fire in steep terrain near Calabasas.

The fire, ignited by a welder’s spark, was aggravated by temperatures that topped 100, drying out already combustible brush and dehydrating the crews that battled the blaze.

“The heat makes for some of the worst conditions a firefighter can work under,” said Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Devin Trone. “The firefighters have to be constantly rotated because the heat really takes it out of them. Also, fires tend to move faster in the heat because the brush is already dried out.”

The fire did not burn any structures or cause any injuries.

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To avoid the crippling heat expected again today, schools from Tujunga to Sylmar have requested permission from the Los Angeles Unified School District to dismiss students about an hour early, before temperatures hit their peak in the midafternoon.

On Monday, students sweltered in classes without air conditioning and spent recesses sitting under trees instead of playing out on the hot blacktop.

At Sunland Elementary, students watched films in the air-conditioned auditorium during recess. “We didn’t have them play outside at all today because it was so hot,” said principal Nancy Kennedy. “Lots of them want to play anyway, but they don’t always know what’s good for them. . . . None of us want to be out there either.”

Brack said the high-pressure system that is fostering the Santa Anas should start to break down over the next few days, although temperatures are expected to remain above normal for the next week or so.

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Highs from the mid-90s to about 100 degrees are expected in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys today with a top reading at the Los Angeles Civic Center of about 92.

High temperatures a few degrees lower are predicted for Wednesday.

Times correspondents Susan Byrnes and David Brady contributed to this story.


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