California reels under heat

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

It burns

“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 accessorised 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.

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