Downtown Los Angeles bakes at record 113 degrees

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Penelope Rosendo, 3, splashes water in the fountain named after William Mullholand at Griffith Park on September 27, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.

A blistering fall heat wave sent temperatures to an all-time record high of 113 degrees in downtown Los Angeles on Monday and roasted even coastal cities in triple digits.

The city of Los Angeles opened cooling centers for citizens while firefighters were on alert for wildfires, but there was little wind amid the onslaught of dry heat.

Downtown hit 113 degrees for a few minutes at about 12:15 p.m., breaking the old all-time record of 112 degrees set on June 26, 1990, said Stuart Seto, a weather specialist at the National Weather Service office in Oxnard. Temperature records for downtown date to 1877.

It was not clear whether 113 would remain the day's high. Temperatures continued to fluctuate around 112 later in the afternoon, Seto said. The old record high for a Sept. 27 was 106 degrees.

As Mother Nature served up California in a roasting pan the lucky few who didn't have work or school sought relief at the beaches. Hundreds of thousands turned out over the weekend as the heat wave built.

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The city of Los Angeles urged people to use Parks and Recreation facilities, senior centers and libraries as cooling centers. A half-dozen senior sites were to remain open until 9 p.m., the Emergency Management Department said.

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.

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. The NWS said the air movement remained breezy at best rather than forming the gusty Santa Ana winds linked to destructive wildfires.

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

"It's been a long time since we got this hot," said Seto. "It's basically high pressure over the area, and we've got some weak offshore flow from the mountains to the ocean. As the air from the mountains sinks, it compresses and gets warmer. Like a Santa Ana (condition), but the winds aren't as strong."

"It's like our unexpected summer," he added.

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Associated Press Writer Robert Jablon contributed to this report.

© 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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