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Droves of Residents Hot on the Trail of Cooling Waters

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The hunt for relief rumbled across Ventura County on Tuesday, with droves of residents ditching sun-baked hills and valleys in favor of cool beaches and sea breezes.

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“I didn’t check the temperature, but it was hot over there,” said John De La Rosa, a retired school administrator who traded Santa Paula for a lounge chair at Surfers Point in Ventura.

“It’s close to the water, it’s close to the people and there’s a nice breeze,” he said, roosting with a paperback beneath a palm tree.

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High-pressure systems and cloudless skies contributed to searing temperatures in Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley, while Fillmore, Santa Paula and the Ojai Valley approached 100 degrees for the second day in a row.

Coastal cities such as Oxnard and Ventura hovered just below 80 degrees Tuesday, with light winds from 10 to 15 m.p.h.

“There’s no clouds around, so it’s warming up pretty good,” National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Cari said. “There’s just a real mass of warm air over us right now.”

Air quality throughout the county remained moderate, officials said, with little chance of deteriorating as long as the heat keeps up. Forecasters are calling for more high temperatures today, with slight drops Thursday and Friday.

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“As soon as you get away from the coast, the temperatures go up pretty high,” Cari said. “It’ll be the same or a little warmer on Wednesday before it cools down.”

Children sought refuge from the heat wherever they could find the cool comfort of water. In Ventura, young boys sat atop the dribbling flat fountain in the newly renovated California Street Plaza, across from the Holiday Inn.

At Libbey Park in Ojai, groups of children--and some adults--removed their shoes, rolled up their pant legs and sloshed through the water bubbling in the public fountain.

“We were hot so we just had to climb in,” said Laura Kelley, a soaked 10-year-old from Ojai. “We started off just wading through, but then Jessica splashed me and we both ended up all wet.”

Nearby, 10-year-old Jessica Johnsen said she usually swims in the Libbey Park fountain only once a year. “My brother and I do it on the Fourth of July, during the parade,” she said. “But today, it was too hot not to.”

At Borchard Park in Newbury Park, the baseball diamonds were empty and only a handful of people sat picnicking in the shade.

But noise and activity reverberated inside the park’s community center, where members of a youth day camp sought refuge from the outdoors. About 45 children played basketball or rested on bleachers, safely shielded from a brutal sun.

Earlier, they had been outside playing water games to keep cool, camp Supervisor Laura Morser said. One game had the children racing to fill buckets with water carried in upside-down Frisbees.

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“Then they took the buckets and dumped them on . . . me,” Morser said. “We got soaked.”

Later Tuesday, camp members planned to go swimming at Newbury Park High School. If the children still need to cool off after that, Morser said, that could be arranged.

“We have a Slip-and-Slide, we have water balloon fights and we have a good time,” she said.

Some east county residents were not given the luxury of hiding indoors or running off to the beach.

Pauline Beck sat under an umbrella as she staffed the cash register at the Newbury Park Meat Market Barbecue, an outdoor eatery tucked in the corner of a parking lot off the Ventura Freeway.

Nearby, the cooking trailer spewed mesquite smoke and heat shimmered across the asphalt. Roasting temperatures, Beck said, are no good for business.

“It’s too hot,” she said. “Last time we had a hot spell, people would come in and get a quarter of a chicken, period. They don’t want to eat a lot.”

Customers trickled in, stopping only long enough to grab a drink from a battery-powered cooler and a tri-tip sandwich before hurrying back to the comfort of air-conditioned cars.

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On normal days, Beck said with a shrug, business is much brisker.

“The rain kills you and the sunshine kills you,” Beck said. “So what are you going to do?”

* MAIN STORY: A3


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