LOS ANGELES -- A brutal heat wave that turned Southern California into a giant sauna, killing at least seven people, finally broke Monday, but humidity from fading Tropical Storm Marie kept things soggy and generally miserable.
A moderating trend that began Sunday when Marie pushed a thick cloud cover over most of the region continued Monday, with temperatures hovering in the 80s and 90s after five days of record-breaking triple-digit heat.
The high Monday reached 85 degrees, well below predicted high of 95 and the record of 103 set last Sept. 10.
'We're finally getting a little bit of a break. Our 100s are over,' said Dieter Crowley, a forecaster with the National Weather Service. 'It should be five to 10 degrees cooler this week.'
But for most, the relief was hardly noticeable.
'It's worse than it was last week,' griped Yvonne Kemplin, a bookkeeper in the West Los Angeles office of Penny Roofing Co. The firm has no air conditioning.
'Last week we had the blast furnace heat, but today we have the ungodly humidity and it feels worse. It was sticky driving to work this morning at quarter to six. I'm sitting right now in my own steam bath. I'm a greasespot.'
Forecasters said the cooling clouds were caused by a combination of Marie's influence and the normal air flow this time of year, typically the hottest period in Southern California. Marie was dying Monday as it moved northward along the Baja California coast.
Crowley said the humidity, which peaked at 8 a.m. at 72 percent, was up from September's usual 50-55 percent.
'I think it's partly psychological,' he said of the discomfort most experienced. 'Instead of cooling off in the evenings, its been staying in the 70s and 80s. So we're not getting the nighttime relief.'
At least seven lives were lost as a result of the heat, including two San Diego children locked in the family car and five others who died at hospitals of heat prostration. Pounding waves kicked up by Marie killed three others during the weekend as hundreds of thousands crowded the coastline.
Dr. Arnold Court, a climatologist at Cal State Northridge, said the phenomenon known as El Nino, a warming of the ocean south of the continental United States, has played a part in making Southern California's summer 1984 stickier than usual.
He said 'shots of moist air' have surged over the region and in the past week combined with sinking air -- heated as it was compressed by a high pressure system off the coast -- to create the hot and humid conditions.
'Our climate has been much more like the Southeastern U.S. than what we're used to,' Court said. 'But it's doubtful we'll become another Houston or New Orleans. In the past things have always gone back to the way they were and there's no reason to believe that won't be the case this time.'