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The Heat Is On

TIMES STAFF WRITER

El Nino-spawned storms brought record rains over the past year to some parts of the San Fernando Valley and the Southland, with Chatsworth totals floating past a record set 20 years ago, the National Weather Service reported Tuesday.

In its annual tally for the seasonal rainfall year, which ran from July 1, 1997, through Tuesday), the Weather Service said Santa Barbara and Ventura counties also experienced the wettest year since officials began keeping records in 1870, two years before the birth of Ventura County.

But the soggy skies of the just-ended rain year will be a distant memory over the Fourth of July weekend, which forecasters say will follow a typical June pattern of patchy, morning low clouds and afternoon sun.

For the year, six of 17 reporting stations in Los Angeles County, including Chatsworth and Northridge, set rainfall records.

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Chatsworth slogged through 44.19 inches of rain, giving it more rain than any other non-mountain spot in the county.

While more records were set at individual stations than in any rain year since 1977-78, the rainfall was not enough to propel Los Angeles County overall to a record year. Countywide, the total was 230% of normal, closely matching a prediction made last year.

“This is El Nino; there’s no doubt about it,” said Gary Ryan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. “We just wanted to illustrate that El Nino did really kick in this year.”

The record rain in Chatsworth, Ryan said, bested the 1977-78 record of 41.30 inches. Chatsworth received more rain than any spot in the county except Mt. Wilson, which had 67.11 inches of rain, well short of its 1982-83 record of 92.06 inches.

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Northridge residents saw 36.10 inches of rain over the season, 2 inches more than the 34.11 figure that set a record in the 1982-83 year.

The wettest spot in Southern California, Ryan said, was San Marcos pass, near Santa Barbara, which posted 73.87 inches of rain, a puddle or two shy of its record of 78.48 inches, set in 1982-83.

Thursday highs in the Valley are forecast in the mid-80s to lower 90s, with the high downtown closer to the low 80s, said meteorologist David Gomberg of the Weather Service.

A slight cooling trend is expected Friday, with highs in the Valley in the mid- to upper 80s and the high downtown around 80. That pattern should hold for Saturday and Sunday, Gomberg said.

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“The temps will be very pleasant, compared to what it could be for this time of year,” Gomberg said. “Eighties are wonderful.”

Temperatures in the upper 80s were elusive in June, causing some people to tag the month as unusually cool.

But though tank tops and sunsuits may have been tucked in drawers until a mini-heat wave began Saturday, figures from the Weather Service and WeatherData Inc., a private forecasting service, show June temperatures at a tad below normal.

The average June high at the Civic Center is 78.3 degrees, said Steve Pryor, a meteorologist with WeatherData in Wichita, Kan.

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Through Monday, June highs at the Civic Center averaged 75.6 degrees, roughly 4 degrees warmer than the coolest June on record, set in 1965.

“The West Coast, even Northern California, has been somewhat cooler than normal,” Pryor said, “but not anything that I would consider extreme.”

The forecasters said weather for the next few days will more closely resemble a typical Southland summer.

“This is your first taste of normal weather,” said WeatherData meteorologist John Sherwin.

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El Nino’s Legacy

Local rain totals for the 1997-98 season in inches

Burbank: 37.90

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Chatsworth: 44.19

Newhall: 36.66

Northridge: 36.10

Palmdale: 16.08

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