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Mercury Hits New Highs in 3 Locations

Times Staff Writer

With an oppressive sun glinting off the beads of sweat on his forehead, Manuel Alvarez, 12, took a long swig from a water bottle Sunday and declared that he felt good.

Yes, it was hot at Whittier Narrows Recreation Area, but heat was the last thing on Manuel’s mind. It had been about seven months since his doctor told him that the cancer in his brain had cleared, and he didn’t want to miss this carnival for young cancer survivors and their families.

“I just wanted to come so bad,” Manuel said as he put the bottle back in his left pocket. “I just keep drinking water so I keep hydrated.”

It was 98 degrees at the park in South El Monte, and record-breaking temperatures were recorded at three locations in the Southland.

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National Weather Service spokesman Bill Hoffer said the mercury in Chatsworth hit 110 degrees, which broke the record of 108 established in 1981. In Lancaster, the temperature was 107, breaking the record of 105 set in 1950. At Mt. Wilson, it was 94 degrees, which passed the 93-degree record of 1998.

But as a heat wave baked the region, the children and families at the cancer survivors’ party barely noticed.

Michael Velazquez, chief executive of Padres Contra El Cancer, the group sponsoring the event, said the carnival always takes place the last weekend in August, in part to help kick off Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Velazquez said he knows that the group has to provide a lot of canopies over the seats in front of the stage and in the eating areas.

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“Because we’re dealing with catastrophically ill children, we have emergency medical services on site,” he said. “We’re blessed that we never had a major incident with a child, though we did have one child overcome by the heat last year.”

Manuel was that child, but his mother, Yolanda Ibarra, didn’t worry much this year.

“Last year, it was because of chemotherapy, and he had barely gotten out of the hospital the day before,” said Ibarra, 34, of Pico Rivera. “This year, everyone’s watching him.”

The family did skip going to the beach this summer because the sun seemed stronger than usual, she added.

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“Because of the pills he takes, he’s not supposed to be in the sun,” Ibarra said. “But with the trees here and stuff, it’s OK.”

Ronald Hernandez, 7, coping with advanced leukemia, asked his doctor at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles for permission to go to the carnival.

He was far too busy to complain about the heat, finding the face-painting booth and waving to his parents from the Paratrooper, a spinning ride like a Ferris wheel.

To beat the heat, he simply asked his father for water after he got off the ride.

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“We used to live in Yuma [Ariz.], so, you know,” William Hernandez, 31, said with a shrug. “A good day over there is when it gets to 100 degrees.”

But the man dealing with the highest temperatures was Henry Barrios, 30, wearing a large, smiling foam head, red scarf, and synthetic fur gloves as part of a costume for Liborito, the farmhand boy mascot for Liborio Markets.

For two 20-minute periods, he was taking pictures with children and giving out candy.

About 2 p.m., he sought refuge in a tent where there was a giant fan.

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The costume added about 10 degrees, said Barrios, whose hair was slicked back with perspiration.

“It depends on the weather, but this time I was getting hot very easily,” he said. “In about eight to 10 minutes, I was getting sweaty.”

“But I like it,” Barrios said as he drank an icy orange Shasta. “It’s part of my job, and I also like kids. I’m used to the heat.”

Outside the carnival’s fences, Miguel Lopez, 42, lounged in the dappled shade by the park’s lake.

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Lopez and his family were seeking relief from the heat of their Los Angeles home, which doesn’t have air conditioning.

It was only at the shady park that they could stand to grill carne asada, he said.

Then, after lunch, they were going to rent a paddleboat on the lake, where it was cooler.

“This is better than my house,” Lopez said.

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“There are lots of trees,” he added. “If there were no trees, I wouldn’t come to the park.”


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