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Heat alert prompts opening of county cooling centers

July 18, 2009 | 11:18 am

Los Angeles County officials issued a heat alert this weekend and have opened community “cooling centers” countywide where residents can seek relief.

Most of the cooling sites are at senior citizen and community centers. Exact locations can be found through the county's 211 information line.

Although temperatures are not expected to break any records in the Los Angeles Basin, the National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for mountain areas -- excluding the Santa Monica range -- that extends until 8 p.m. Sunday.

Temperatures are expected to reach 107 degrees in the mountains this afternoon, with high humidity and a chance of thunderstorms.

No heat warnings were in effect for Orange County or the Inland Empire, although they can also expect to see record-breaking heat this weekend, forecasters said.

“There’s a massively strong area of high pressure sitting over the desert Southwest, bringing the desert heat into the area,” said Jamie Meier, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service's Oxnard office.
Meier said the weather system is preventing cooler ocean air from moving inland. “That’s why we’re not getting any fog into the valleys or coastal slopes like we saw pretty much every day in June.”

Coastal areas will be spared some of the worst heat, but those who head inland should not be fooled, she said.

“It will be deceiving because the coast will see a bit of relief and then you’ll head up into the mountain areas and see penetrating heat,” Meier said. “Bring plenty of water, take advantage of the shade and do as many activities early in the morning or in the evening. Take a breakfast hike, not a lunch hike.”

Temperatures are expected to reach the high 80s in the Los Angeles area, Meier said -- not record-breaking.

The record-high temperature for downtown today was 97 degrees, set in 1936.

Santa Ana tied the record-high temperature Friday of 94 degrees set in 1998, as did Chula Vista, which hit 83 degree, the record set in 2003.

Other areas of Orange County and the Inland Empire could see record-breaking heat this weekend, said Stan Wasowski, a National Weather Service forecaster based in San Diego.

Forecasters predict a slight chance of thunderstorms this afternoon in the Los Angeles mountains and Antelope Valley. Although no red-flag fire warnings have been issued, Meier said, there is a chance of lightning sparking wildfires given the extremely dry conditions in recent weeks.

A bus fire in the Castaic area late Friday sparked a 55-acre brush fire, and firefighters put down several other small blazes nearby, Meier said. She urged those headed to parks and other recreational areas to be alert to fire risks.

 “Luckily we don’t have much going on in the way of winds, which is the No. 1 concern when it comes to fires or fire growth,” she said. But she added, “We’re really walking a fine line right now and people really should be careful.”

Meier said the weekend heat is expected to last through the beginning of the week.

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske