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Crowds Seek Refuge From Lingering Heat : Weather: Thousands pack beaches and pools. Smog, power outages accompany oppressive mugginess, although the hint of a cooling trend spreads.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

From Simi Valley to the beaches of west Ventura County, residents and tourists sought refuge Sunday from the searing heat that has enveloped much of Southern California for the past several days.

Temperatures soared into the high 90s inland and hit the low 80s at the coast, with thousands of people flocking to public pools, indoor shopping malls and the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean.

“We’re just packed,” said Nadean Hudson, a lifeguard at San Buenaventura State Beach. “Almost the whole stretch of beach is covered with people all the way down to the waterline.”

Meteorologists said no temperature records were set Sunday, however, as the first inkling of a cooling trend began to spread across much of the county. The more typical late-night and early-morning clouds were expected to return to the coast tonight and Tuesday.

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But there was no immediate respite for the two hottest spots in the county, Simi Valley and Fillmore, where temperatures were expected to climb a degree today to 96 and 97, respectively, before beginning to taper off.

Elsewhere, temperatures were expected to range today from the mid-70s at the coast to 90 in Thousand Oaks and the Ojai Valley.

The hot weather also brought warnings of unhealthful air in Simi Valley and Moorpark.

But Gary Arcemont, a meteorologist with the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District, said smog there peaked under the level at which the district issues health advisories to hospitals, parks and schools.

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In Simi Valley, Southern California Edison officials said nearly 50 households lost power over the weekend because so many people switched on air conditioners at the same time.

But all of the outages--caused when transformers overloaded--lasted only a short time before the utility was able to restore electricity, spokeswoman Cher Zervas said.

“We’ve had three consecutive days of heat and it hasn’t been cooling off at night,” Zervas said Sunday. “Because it’s been so hot, the transformers overheat and it takes our crews a little while to fix them.”

The assistant manager at Conejo Valley Ice Skating Center said her business was double that of a normal weekend.

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“The rink is cold, so it’s a good place to be today,” Judy Nessen said. “Some people wear gloves, especially the little ones, because that ice is cold if they fall. But we have kids in shorts too.”

At the Rancho Simi Community Park pool, hundreds of children were keeping cool while participating in a regional swimming competition.

“It’s extremely hot and very muggy,” said Susan Engler of Thousand Oaks, who was handing out fresh watermelon and cantaloupe to the judges of the meet, sponsored by Conejo Simi Aquatics.

“The most important thing is probably juicy fruits and fluids,” she said. “They need this hospitality because, over the last hour or two, they’ve been out there in the sun judging the swimmers.”

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Fourteen-year-old Lianna Kishimoto, a San Fernando Valley high school sophomore, said she shaved more than 10 seconds off her personal best in the 200-meter individual medley despite the heat.

“It was my first time under three minutes,” she said, waiting under a royal-blue canopy for her number to be called in her next event, the 100-meter backstroke. “The heat takes so much of your energy, but I’m doing pretty well.”

Lifeguard Bryan McQueen said he was on the lookout for symptoms of heat stroke or exhaustion among the participants and fans.

“When you sweat, you lose lots of water, so it’s important to use lots of fluids. I’ve been through three of these today already,” he said, holding up his jug of bottled water.

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In Thousand Oaks, Mark and Megan Anderson ignored the high temperatures and held their wedding reception outdoors at Conejo Creek Park.

With decorative streamers, sandwiches and beer, the couple celebrated their big day with more than 100 family members and friends and prepared for their honeymoon.

“The heat’s not bothering us at all,” said the groom, a 25-year-old carpenter who works at California Lutheran University. “But more of the older people from church would have come if it wasn’t so hot.”

Megan Anderson said the Thousand Oaks heat would help prepare the couple for their honeymoon at Lake Mohave at the hot and dry Arizona-Nevada border.

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“We rented a houseboat, so we’ll be spending a lot of time in the water,” she said.

Officials at San Buenaventura State Beach estimated that more than 7,000 people crowded the shoreline between Ventura Harbor and the pier.

“The day’s going great, but it’s really busy,” supervising Lifeguard Kirk Sturm said. “We’ve had more than 60 rescues on State Beach, and that’s a lot.”

Sturm said a south swell from Mexico created strong rip currents that prevented many swimmers from returning to the shore on their own, but no one was seriously injured.

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Those currents were welcomed by 15-year-old Cara Anderson of Santa Clarita.

“We’ve been Boogie-Boarding all day,” she said, brushing sand from her feet. “The waves are really strong and there’s a good current, so it’s a lot of fun.”


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