Image: People enjoy the beach
Lori Shepler  /  AP
People escape the record heat and enjoy the beach in Huntington Beach, Calif., as a heat wave grips Southern California on Monday.
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updated 9/27/2010 11:51:21 PM ET 2010-09-28T03:51:21

California's blistering fall heat wave sent temperatures to an all-time record high of 113 degrees in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, and many sought refuge at the beach.

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.

The historic mark was part of an onslaught of temperatures well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in many cities ranging from Anaheim, home of Disneyland, to San Luis Obispo on the usually balmy Central Coast.

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Firefighters carried heavy hoses up hills to battle a small but persistent brush fire west of Los Angeles in Thousand Oaks while other workers in less strenuous jobs also struggled through the day.

"I literally have beads of sweat rolling down my back right now," graphic designer Christine Nguyen said as she carried a suitcase full of materials to a downtown appointment. "I can't wait to get home and take a cold shower."

Commuters waiting for buses sought even the slight shelter of the 6-inch-wide shadows of light poles.

Jorge Marin, 49, sang a song from his church as he waved an orange flag along a sidewalk to beckon drivers into his parking lot.

"Like a ray of sun falling upon me, it burns, how it burns," he sang in Spanish.

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The giant Los Angeles Unified School District canceled all outdoor activities, including sports competitions and practices.

Thousands of heat-related power outages were reported.

More than 30,000 Southern California Edison customers were without power at 8 p.m. Monday, spokeswoman Mashi Nyssen said. Some of the cities affected include Santa Monica, Compton, Whittier and West Hollywood in Los Angeles County and Santa Ana, Fullerton and Huntington Beach in Orange County.

About 5,400 Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers were affected, spokeswoman Gale Harris said.

As Mother Nature served up California in a roasting pan, some people were able to seek relief at the beaches — though not in the hundreds of thousands who turned out 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.

Video: Heat wave broils California (on this page)

Alexander said Monday was one of the best beach days of the year, with clear visibility all the way to Santa Catalina Island, the popular tourist destination about 20 miles off the mainland coast.

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.

Umbrellas were the necessary accessory for many women venturing along sizzling sidewalks.

The heat didn't keep tourists from snapping pictures of the Walk of Fame stars on the Hollywood Boulevard sidewalk, but Don Macfarlane, 59, of Melbourne, Australia, said he would rather have been at the beach.

"I expected this part of the world to be fairly warm, but not quite this warm," he said.

It felt like an oven to Dilia Rosada, 24, a lawyer from the Dominican Republic who was in Los Angeles to meet her fiance's family.

"We thought it was going to be normal hot, but this is hotter than our country," she 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.

Conditions were expected to remain hot Tuesday but not as extreme. Forecasters said the ridge would drift east and allow some cooling through the end of the week, with moist air flowing from the southeast creating the possibility of showers and thunderstorms Wednesday through Friday.

Firefighters were on alert for wildfires, but there was little wind amid the onslaught of dry heat.

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. 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, adding: "It's like our unexpected summer."

The 113 registered in downtown Los Angeles would not be all that remarkable in the populous inland valleys and deserts of Southern California — the highest temperature recorded in Los Angeles County was 119 in the San Fernando Valley community of Woodland Hills on July 22, 2006 — but downtown's highs are typically well below those areas.

"Usually there's more of a sea breeze that moderates coastal (areas) and downtown," said NWS meteorologist Eric Boldt.

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Video: Heat wave broils California

  1. Transcript of: Heat wave broils California

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: A record breaker today in LA , not just for today's high temperature but the all-time temperature, period. At a few minutes after noon today, it had already climbed to 113 degrees in downtown Los Angeles . That would make it the hottest day ever recorded in Los Angeles since they started keeping records.

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