Southern California heat wave leaves tens of thousands without power

By John Antczak, AP
Tuesday, September 28, 2010

S. Calif. heat wave leaves thousands without power

LOS ANGELES — Southern California’s heat wave has left tens of thousands of people without electricity.

Southern California Edison says more than 27,000 of its customers were without power Tuesday morning, mainly in Orange and Los Angeles counties. Most have been blacked out for eight to 16 hours as temps hit 113 degrees in some parts.

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reports another 15,000 customers are without power in Los Angeles.

Edison spokeswoman Vanessa McGrady says the heat has driven folks to use their air conditioners around the clock. She says transformers that usually cool down overnight are getting a workout and are blowing or burning out.

DWP spokeswoman Gale Harris says blown transformers appear to have caused most of the city outages and crews are working quickly to replace them.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — 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, 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.”

That figure, recorded just after noon Monday, was the hottest registered in the city since record-keeping began in 1877. The previous high of 112 was set on June 26, 1990.

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

Early Tuesday, the weather was near 80 degrees in Los Angeles. At 3 a.m., 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. Triple-digit temperatures were expected downtown and in Southern California valleys but they weren’t forecast to exceed Monday’s highs.

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.

Parking lot attendant Jorge Marin beckoned drivers into his lot with an orange flag and a song he knew from church.

“Like a ray of sun falling me, it burns, how it burns,” he sang in Spanish.

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 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 the highest-ever demand for electricity. The utility registered a peak demand of 6,177 megawatts, breaking a previous record of 6,165 megawatts from July 2006, DWP spokeswoman Gale Harris said.

As Mother Nature served up California in a roasting pan, some sought relief at the beaches, though fewer than over the weekend as the heat wave built.

“Because it’s Monday and it’s a school day, the crowd is a lot smaller, (but) it appears a lot of people aren’t going to work or school,” said Los Angeles County lifeguard Capt. Angus Alexander.

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 heat was blamed on a high-pressure system over California and winds sinking down from the mountains to the sea, heating up as they go. That offshore flow was easing, and the high in downtown was only expected to hit 100 on Tuesday — still well above the average of 85 for the day, Seto said.

Triple-digit temperatures were expected in the Southern California valleys, which won’t return to seasonal temperatures until the weekend, Seto said.

Red Flag warnings for fire danger were posted in some areas, but mostly due to the withering effect on vegetation alone rather than the dangerous combination of low humidity and offshore winds.

A brushfire Tuesday morning in San Juan Capistrano was doused in about 20 minutes.

A 50-acre brush fire broke out Monday in Thousand Oaks west of Los Angeles but no homes were threatened.

The early fall blast of intense heat follows an unusually cool summer that often found beaches covered in overcast and 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.

“Usually there’s more of a sea breeze that moderates coastal (areas) and downtown,” said NWS meteorologist Eric Boldt.

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