Heat wave drives Southern Californians to the coast

Balancing a giant jug of icy watermelon juice over one shoulder, Rafael Soria trod though the Santa Monica beach sand like a man on a mission. Out on the shore, his thirsty wife and three children awaited.

“We came all the way from Palmdale as soon as we could,” said the 36-year-old in shorts and a tank top. “It’s just way too hot today.”

Across Southern California, people flocked to the coastline to seek relief from the summer’s first heat wave. Crowds hauling boogie boards, fishing poles, kites, hula-hoops and coolers stuffed with hot dogs and chips drove toward the sea breeze Saturday as the fourth straight day of high temperatures persisted, particularly in the valley and inland areas.

Many spent the day avoiding the outdoors, bouncing between air-conditioned cars and air-conditioned rooms. Others kept cool by reaching for light clothes and heading to local liquor stores and groceries for beer and water.

The weather even sent some street performers at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre fleeing west to more comfortable zones.

That included Batman.

Decked in three head-to-toe layers of black leather and polyester, Maxwell Allen ditched Hollywood to round up tourists for photo ops by the Santa Monica Pier. His chin dripped sweat, but at least here, the day was about 10 degrees cooler.

Up the boardwalk, Sahin Kilci welcomed the warmth. More sun means more sales in the hat business. His kiosk, Amazing Hats, was abuzz with customers looking for headgear to block the rays.

“My sales have gone up by 30% in the last week,” Kilci said, smiling.

But as early as Sunday, his sales might slow down as the weather cools off.

By Wednesday, temperatures are expected to return to normal as the high-pressure system causing the heat wave moves out of the area, National Weather Service officials said. The excessive heat warning for part of Southern California was to remain in effect until 9 p.m. Saturday.

Palm Springs hit 113 degrees Saturday and downtown Los Angeles reached a high of 90.

No heat-related deaths were reported in Los Angeles County.

In Malibu, people appeared blissfully unaware of the fiery temperatures in other parts of Southern California. The day remained breezy and cool.

Maria Rafael slipped on her jeans jacket as she waited for the bus. The housekeeper was heading inland.

“My family has been calling me to tell me how hot it’s been,” said Rafael, 62. “I’ll see what they mean when I get home.”

North of the Santa Monica Mountains, Woodland Hills saw no reprieve from the heat. On Saturday the mercury spiked to 104 degrees.

Along most blocks it appeared that the entire population had retreated inside or fled. It was hard to find anyone mowing lawns, washing cars or playing in front yards.

One exception was Gail Janeway, who braved the elements and decided to hold a yard sale.

For hours, the 56-year-old sat underneath a tent, her skin covered in a sweaty glow, hawking suit jackets, ties, scarves and handmade jewelry. While waiting for customers, she took sips from a tall cup of hot coffee.

“I’ve made $110 so far,” she reported proudly.

Asked about the heat, she said, “What heat? I’m from Thailand. This is nothing.”

Times staff writer Maeve Reston contributed to this report.