Clouds keep California temperatures from soaring after record-setting heat wave

By John Antczak, AP
Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Clouds put lid on Calif. heat after record hot day

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.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power on Monday recorded its highest-ever demand for electricity as round-the-clock demand for air conditioning caused transformers to blow or burn out, leaving thousands of people in the dark. The department said more than 11,000 customers remained without electricity Tuesday in the city, while Southern California Edison was working to repair heat-related outages for more than 27,000 customers.

Transformers and other equipment usually cool down overnight “but when it doesn’t, we see problems,” Edison spokeswoman Vanessa 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 utility said Monday’s usage of 22,771 megawatts was the highest demand on its system since the all-time record of 23,303 megawatts was reached in August 2007.

Investigators were also looking to what caused an underground electrical vault containing transformers in downtown to explode, shattering windows in an office tower.

At 3 a.m. Tuesday, 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.

Forecasters referred to Monday as a “temperature explosion” and predicted it wouldn’t repeat itself Tuesday. By midday, few locations reported 100-degree readings as clouds streamed overhead. Under mostly gray skies, downtown Los Angeles was just 94 degrees a day after the heat record was broken.

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 partly on the blink early Tuesday. Weather service meteorologist Eric Boldt said technicians were examining it after it began recording temperatures again.

No deaths were confirmed, but the Los Angeles County coroner’s office was looking at two possible heat-related cases from Monday.

Coroner’s Lt. Fred Corral said heat stroke was suspected in the death of Sally JoAnne Menke, a film editor on Quentin Tarantino movies, who had gone hiking in Griffith Park in the Hollywood Hills. Hyperthermia was also suspected in the death of Arquimedes Mestre, 57, whose body was found on a street in Pomona.

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

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