Another day of blistering heat on tap for Calif., but temperatures begin to head downward

By John Antczak, AP
Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Another day of searing heat on tap for California

LOS ANGELES — Forecasters may never know just how hot it got in Los Angeles during a day of record-breaking heat: After the temperature soared to 113 degrees in downtown, the thermometer took the rest of the day off.

“It just kind of quit functioning, but the temperature had already peaked,” National Weather Service forecaster Stuart Seto said Tuesday of the blistering weather a day earlier. “We doubt that it went over 113.”

The fall heat wave pushed temperatures well over 100 degrees from Anaheim, home of Disneyland, to San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz and Salinas on the usually balmy Central Coast. Many records were set or tied.

Forecasters referred to Monday as a “temperature explosion” and predicted the high Tuesday in downtown Los Angeles wouldn’t exceed 102 degrees — still well above the average of 85 for the day.

At 3 a.m., with the temperature near 80, hundreds of people were sprawled on the sand or across car hoods at beaches in Malibu, Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica to catch a cool breath of the Pacific.

Under gray clouds with only a few patches of blue in the sky, downtown reached 89 degrees at 9:47 a.m. Twenty-four hours earlier, it was 101, meteorologist Eric Boldt said.

“That cloud cover will keep us down,” he said.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power on Monday recorded the highest-ever demand for electricity. Round-the-clock demand for air conditioning caused transformers to blow or burn out, leaving thousands of people in the dark.

About 15,000 customers were without electricity Tuesday in the city, while more than 27,000 customers were blacked out in areas served by Southern California Edison, company spokeswoman Vanessa McGrady said.

“These are all-heat-related,” McGrady said.

In addition, an underground electrical vault containing transformers in downtown exploded in flames, shattering windows in an office tower.

The cause was under investigation

Transformers and other equipment usually cool down overnight “but when it doesn’t we see problems,” McGrady said. “Because we’ve had such hot nights, people are still running their air conditioners, etc. So the equipment really doesn’t get a break.”

The temperature of 113 recorded just after noon Monday was the hottest registered in the usually moderate downtown area since record-keeping began in 1877. The previous high of 112 was set on June 26, 1990.

The weather service sensor on the University of Southern California campus, which measures temperature, winds, pressure and other data, was still partly on the blink Tuesday. It was recording time and pressure but “it’s still not healthy yet,” Seto said.

The DWP registered a peak demand of 6,177 megawatts, breaking a previous record of 6,165 megawatts from July 2006, DWP spokeswoman Gale Harris said.

No deaths linked to the heat were reported, but coroner’s investigators were trying to determine if the weather played a role in the death of award-winning film editor Sally Menke, 56, whose body was found Tuesday after she went hiking in Griffith Park the previous day. She worked on such movies as “Pulp Fiction,” ”Kill Bill” and “Jackie Brown.”

The Los Angeles Fire Department reported the heat may have contributed to a surge in calls requesting ambulances and other emergency responses that were up 43 percent Monday over normal activity. The agency also had the highest amount of medical transports in its history.

As pedestrians waited to cross the street in downtown on Monday afternoon, they lined up diagonally to take advantage of just six inches of shade that a light pole cast on the radiating sidewalk.

Commuters broke a sweat just standing in the shade waiting for a bus. Women accessorized with umbrellas and parasols to hide from the heat.

The National Weather Service said the siege of dry heat was being caused by a ridge of high pressure over the West that was keeping the Pacific Ocean’s normal moist and cool influence at bay.

The early fall blast of intense heat follows an unusually cool summer that often resulted in overcast beaches whipped by chilly winds.

The 113 registered in downtown Los Angeles would not be so remarkable in the populous inland valleys and deserts of Southern California. — the highest temperature recorded in Los Angeles was 119 in the San Fernando Valley neighborhood of Woodland Hills on July 22, 2006 — but downtown’s highs are typically well below those areas.

(This version CORRECTS Adds details on forecast, other details on power outages. Corrects that record was only for downtown, not for all of Los Angeles. AP Video.)

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