Heat wave fading out, at last

Times Staff Writers

Temperatures were expected to ease today after a heat wave broke decades-old records and sent hundreds of thousands of Southern Californians to beaches this weekend and left them searching for new words to describe their misery.

“It’s pretty much over with,” said Bill Hoffer, a National Weather Service spokesman.

The arrival of a low pressure system from the Gulf of Alaska promises a return to normal temperatures this week with highs in the 70s at the beaches and in the 80s inland, he said.

Sunday wasn’t quite as sweltering as previous days. Only one record was broken, at UCLA, where the 1949 high of 90 was topped by one degree.


But the thermometer hit triple-digit highs in a number of cities. It was 104 in Pasadena, 106 in Chatsworth and 116 in Palm Springs. Downtown Los Angeles had a high of 96, and Santa Ana, 99.

LaShawn and Melroy Payton woke up Sunday to wilting heat in their Watts home.

“You’re laying on the sidewalk and you’re an egg!” Payton, a home care nurse, said with a laugh. “The fans are blowing, and there’s still no air.”

The couple’s pool and gazebo offered little relief.


“What other adjectives can you use? Hot. Miserable. Sticky. Sweaty,” said Melroy, 51, a paralegal.

“It’s more of a back-East-type feel where you get hot and muggy.”

So they packed up and headed for Manhattan Beach.

As they set foot on sand in the early afternoon, they were met by a soft breeze.

A marine layer had brought a cooling haze.

“It felt better as soon as we got here,” LaShawn said.

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers used a record amount of electricity for a Sunday in June, with a peak demand of 5,257 megawatts.

The previous high was 4,441 megawatts in 2006.


Scattered power outages across the city knocked out lights and air conditioning to about 1,300, according to DWP spokeswoman Terry Schneider.

Sunday afternoon, 1,410 Southern California Edison customers were without power, most of them in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

The heat wave was caused by an unusually intense high pressure system that lingered from the Four Corners area of the Southwest to 200 miles south of Baja California. Such systems normally would spread across a larger area, Hoffer said, dissipating the heat somewhat.

Beaches, and the roads to them, were clogged with the heat-weary on Sunday.

Along Imperial Highway, Giselle Venegas, her sister and two nieces endured soaring temperatures as they inched along for about 45 minutes in a traffic-snarled line to Dockweiler State Beach.

To make matters worse, their car’s air conditioner wasn’t working.

“It was nasty,” said Venegas, 27.

About 3:30 p.m., the family pulled into a parking space at the beach. Temperatures were in the 80s, about 20 degrees cooler than back home in La Puente.


In Northern California, the problem wasn’t heat, but fire and lightning; 602 small fires were burning Sunday in the wake of extensive lightning storms the day before.

Between noon and 7 p.m. Saturday, there were 6,000 lightning strikes from Santa Cruz north to the Oregon border, said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Roy Del Carlo.

One of the largest fires was northwest of Fairfield in Napa County, where about 3,500 acres had burned and one residence was destroyed.

Hundreds of firefighters were trying to keep the fires under control, and some rural areas had been evacuated.

In Shasta County alone, 109 small fires were burning Sunday. “It pounded us real hard,” Del Carlo said. “It’s stretching our resources.”