Swirling winds push cool marine air across Southland, giving slight respite from high heat

Palmdale, CA - July 03: Airn Barnes enjoys a cool fountain at Courson Park Pool as temperatures rose into the triple digits Wednesday, July 3, 2024 in Palmdale, CA. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Airn Barnes enjoyed a cool fountain at Courson Park Pool on Wednesday as temperatures in Palmdale rose into the triple digits. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Swirling winds helped push a layer of cool marine air across much of Southern California on Saturday, providing a slight respite from a blistering heat wave that has created dangerous fire condition across the state.

The whirling air currents deepened and extended the marine layer farther inland into coastal valleys, helping temperatures drop about 10 degrees below Friday's, said Robbie Munroe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. The slightly cooler weather is expected to continue until midweek.

The cooling trend prompted the Weather Service to call off excessive-heat advisories and warnings in many of the coastal valleys, but they remained in place for deserts, mountains and the Santa Clarita Valley, he said.

Temperatures in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys had been expected to range from the mid-90s to a high of 105 degrees, but fell below that on Saturday.

Chatsworth hit a high of 92 degrees on Saturday, down from 109 degrees Friday; Saugus cooled down to 100 degrees from 118 the previous day; and Woodland Hills dropped to 96 from 106 in that period. Palm Springs also cooled to 114 degrees Saturday, down 10 degrees from Friday.

Downtown Los Angeles hit 87 degrees Saturday, about the same as its high on Friday.

But broiling heat shattered records in other areas Saturday. Palmdale tied its all-time record of 115 degrees. Death Valley set a new record for July 6 with a high of 128 degrees.

Extreme heat, low humidity and strong winds prompted officials to issue a red flag warning through the weekend along the 5 Freeway corridor and in the Antelope Valley foothills, said Joe Sirard, another National Weather Service meteorologist in Oxnard.

Two palm trees and a person in the foreground cast tall shadows on a wall outside as a man as kicks a soccer ball against it
A man plays soccer against a wall in Venice Beach during a warm afternoon earlier in the week. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

"Fires are dangerous anywhere, but this is really a heightened danger," he said, adding that blazes in these conditions "will spread rapidly — explosively — and it's extremely dangerous for firefighters."

Hampered by scorching temperatures, crews continued to battle numerous wildfires across California on Saturday. The largest is the Basin fire in Fresno County, which started June 26. The fire, which had burned 14,027 acres, was 60% contained Saturday afternoon.

Crews were beginning to get the upper hand on the French fire, which began on the Fourth of July and had threatened the town of Mariposa outside Yosemite National Park. The 908-acre fire, which temporarily triggered mandatory evacuations and closed State Route 140 leading into the park, was 35% contained on Saturday.

In Southern California, the Lake fire in Santa Barbara County swelled to 12,271 acres late Saturday afternoon with zero containment, officials said. The blaze, near Zaca Lake in the Santa Ynez Valley, triggered an evacuation order early Saturday for an area north of Zaca Lake Road, east of Foxen Canyon Road and south of the Sisquoc River.

Temperatures in the 90s and very low humidity overnight Friday fueled the fire's spread, while a layer of warm air trapped its smoke close to the ground, Scott Safechuck, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, said in a post on the social media platform X.

Farther south, the Rancho fire, which was reported Friday evening, burned about 13 acres of brush along the 101 Freeway near Thousand Oaks.

Andy VanSciver, a spokesman for the Ventura County Fire Department, said in a video posted on X that the Rancho fire had been contained as of around 7 p.m. Friday. After stopping its forward progress, firefighters worked overnight to extinguish hot spots, he said.

Two shirtless men in hats and shorts sitting on top of a pickup truck with a small blond dog in front of a beach-themed mural
Charlie Hammond, left, and Pierre Mordacq relax in the sun in Venice Beach earlier in the week. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

In Riverside County, firefighters managed to get control of the 70-acre Hills fire near Juniper Springs, with 75% containment as of Saturday afternoon.

Authorities evacuated an area close to the fire after it broke out Friday afternoon near Juniper Flats Road and Mapes Road in Homeland. People affected by the evacuations were directed to Tahquitz High School in Hemet and the Riverside County Animal Shelter in San Jacinto.

Two fires east of Apple Valley and a small blaze near UC Riverside broke out on Saturday; the latter was soon 50% contained, according to CalFire.

Meanwhile, residents of Los Angeles County's valleys and inland areas are urged to stay indoors during the day if possible and avoid hiking, even in areas that might seem cool at sea level.

"Even in the Santa Monica Mountains, which are close to the coast, once you get above a certain elevation, 1,500 feet, it's going to get very, very hot," Sirard said.

A lifeguard in a red shorts uniform walks by a colorful ocean-themed mural, looking back toward a swimmer in the foreground
Lifeguard Ellie Gonzales, right, keeps an eye on swimmers enjoying the cool water at Courson Park Pool in Palmdale. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

He said people should follow commonsense practices such as hydrating through the day and wearing lightweight and light-colored clothing. Sirard recommended that those who want to get some sun head to the beaches, where temperatures should range from the low 70s to the low 80s.

"If people want to beat the heat this weekend," he said, "the coast is the place to go."

The city of Los Angeles has four cooling centers open through the weekend where people can find relief from the heat:

  • Lake View Terrace Recreation Center, 11075 Foothill Blvd., Lake View Terrace

  • Mid-Valley Senior Citizen Center, 8825 Kester Ave., Panorama City

  • Fred Roberts Recreation Center, 4700 S. Honduras St., Los Angeles

  • Jim Gilliam Recreation Center, 400 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles

Los Angeles County has a network of more than 150 cooling centers, including libraries, parks and community centers, all listed here.

In the Bay Area, cool weather along the coast gave way Saturday to blistering heat in northern Sonoma and Napa counties, where temperatures were expected to climb to 110 degrees, said Nicole Sarment, a Weather Service meteorologist in San Francisco.

"There's as much as a 50-degree variation, depending on where you are," she said.

San Francisco was forecast to see a high of 79 degrees Saturday before dipping to 58 at night, she said. In Oakland, temperatures were expected to range from 59 to 87 degrees, while San Jose was predicted to see a low of 64 and high of 99.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.