Southern California began cooling off Saturday after four days in a row of record heat caused by searing desert winds and blamed for at least one death.

A cooling trend was already evident at noon, when the mercury at the Civic Center registered 87 degrees - still 2 degrees shy of the record for April 8 set in 1899.Saturday was the first day since Tuesday that temperatures did not rise to a record high during the morning and the first day that temperatures were expected to remain below 100 degrees.

Relief came too late for Barbara Zavaleta, 50, an East Los Angeles resident with a heart condition. She was taken to White Memorial Hospital about 7:15 p.m. Friday, suffering from heat exhaustion, Sgt. Robert Normandy said.

Zavaleta died within an hour when her condition worsened and she went into respiratory arrest, he said. Temperatures had reached 100 degrees at noon Friday, topping the record for the day set in 1962 by 12 degrees.

Strong high-pressure systems that have been dominating weather patterns in the western United States were expected to break down by late Sunday, bringing an end to the hot, dry Santa Ana winds that have swept across Southern California, overheating everything in their path.

By Monday, highs were expected to drop to the 70s and 80s in most areas and even cooler along the coast thanks to long-awaited sea breezes.