Excessive Heat Plagues Southland for a Third Day

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - An excessive heat warning went into a third day in the Southland today, again raising fears of heat-related illnesses.

L.A. County temperatures generally will be 10-12 degrees above normal today, said National Weather Service meteorologist Kathy Hoxsie. The humidity level generally will be at 25-30 percent, which will increase hot-weather misery for residents but also marginally increase fire safety by decreasing the dryness, she said.

NWS forecasters said Tuesday and today would be the hottest days of this week's heat wave. By Tuesday afternoon, heat records had been set in Woodland Hills, where the 108 degree high broke the record of 107 set on July 24, 2006. Lancaster reached 109 degrees, tying the record also set in 2006.

Overnight low temperatures have offered little reprieve from the heat, ranging from 66-76 degrees.

Conditions will create “increased potential for serious heat-related illnesses, especially for the young and elderly, those performing outdoor activities, as well as those without access to air conditioning,” the NWS warned in a statement.

The heat wave will also create an increased potential for power outages because of the widespread use of air-conditioning, prompting the California Independent System Operator -- which manages the state's power grid - - to issue a statewide Flex Alert that calls for voluntary electricity conservation from 5-9 p.m. Tuesday and today.

Southern California residents were urged to take steps to protect themselves from the conditions, scheduling strenuous activities for the coolest part of the day -- in the morning or evening -- wearing lightweight and light- colored clothing and drinking plenty of water.

NWS forecasters also stressed that “young children and pets should never be left unattended in vehicles under any circumstances. This is especially true during warm or hot weather when car interiors can reach lethal temperatures in a matter of minutes.” The warning also covers seniors.

Health officials also warned against leaving children or the elderly alone at home without air conditioning.

“Extreme heat such as this is not just an inconvenience, it can be dangerous and even deadly,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, Los Angeles County's interim health officer. Even a few hours of exertion can cause severe hydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, he said.

Frail individuals or those with chronic health problems are particularly at risk and Gunzenhauser urged residents to make sure that elderly or infirm neighbors without air conditioning get to a cooling center or other air-conditioned space during the day. A map of cooling centers can be found at www.lacounty.gov/heat or residents may call 211.

“While it is very important that everyone take special care of themselves, it is equally important that we reach out to those who are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of extreme heat, including children, the elderly and their pets,” Gunzenhauser said.

A catastrophe in France in 2003 gave weight to Gunzenhauser's warnings. Close to 15,000 heat-related deaths occurred that year, mostly in August, mostly affecting seniors whose families were vacationing.

Pets should not be left out in the sun or in garages, which are typically uninsulated and can reach extremely high temperatures.

The excessive heat warning is in effect until 8 p.m. Thursday throughout Los Angeles County -- along the coast, in beach cities, metropolitan Los Angeles, downtown L.A. and the Hollywood Hills; the San Gabriel, San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys; the San Gabriel and Santa Monica mountains; and inland Orange County.

The NWS forecast sunny skies in L.A. County today and highs of 85 degrees at LAX; 89 in Long Beach; 91 in Avalon; 95 on Mount Wilson; 97 in Downtown L.A.; 101 in San Gabriel; 103 in Pasadena and Burbank; and 110 in Woodland Hills, Saugus, Palmdale and Lancaster. Temperatures will drop marginally Thursday at the start of a slow cooling trend.

Sunny skies were also forecast in Orange County, along with highs of 81 in San Clemente; 82 in Newport Beach; 83 in Laguna Beach; 96 in Irvine; 97 in Anaheim; 98 in Fullerton; 99 in Mission Viejo; and 102 in Yorba Linda. A slow cooling trend will begin tomorrow, but temperatures will not immediately fall lower than the high 80s.

Photo: Getty Images

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