Jump to content



Recommended Posts

California heat wave death toll tops 120



Friday, July 28, 2006; Posted: 1:53 p.m. EDT (17:53 GMT)


FRESNO, California (AP) -- The death toll from California's record-breaking heat wave rose to 123 Friday as weather forecasters announced that, for the first day in nearly two weeks, the temperature would stay below 100 degrees across most of the state.


The vast majority of the deaths have been elderly people whose bodies don't cope as well in the heat, county coroners said.


But there have also been younger people. A 38-year-old gardener collapsed on the job and died last week. On Wednesday, two brothers, ages 57 and 68, were found dead in a Bakersfield home without air conditioning.


The entire state has been sizzling in triple-digit temperatures since July 16. Only Friday were the heat advisories finally lifted and meteorologist said the heat wave appear to be nearing its end.


"By Monday, Tuesday we'll be even cooler than normal," said Mike Delman, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service. In the extended forecast, "It might warm up a bit, but nothing like what we had."


In the Central Valley, which has taken the brunt of the heat wave, temperatures were still expected to hover near 100 degrees on Friday, but that's still a break from the 115 degree some cities have faced in the past two weeks. (Watch how people stay cool and police save lives -- 1:45)


In Fresno County's morgue, the walk-in freezer was stuffed with bodies, with some piled on top of others, said Coroner Loralee Cervantes. With limited air conditioning, employees worked in sweltering heat as they investigated at least 22 possible heat-related deaths.


Californians trying to keep cool amid the heat have set records for energy consumption, even catching the Department of Water and Power officials by surprise, according to the Los Angeles Times.


Before this week, the utility's highest peak energy use was recorded at 5,661 megawatts. The heat wave created a demand of 6,165 megawatts -- shocking officials who predicted usage wouldn't top 6,100 megawatts for another four years.


"They didn't even believe our customers could ever put such a load on our system -- that we could even have energy use from our customers up to that kind level," DWP board member David Nahai told the Times. The utility serves 1.4 million customers.


In Northern California, a wildfire near the Oregon state line was threatening major power transmission lines between California and the Pacific Northwest. Grid operators said they could reroute electricity if the lines go dead, but those three lines carry about 4,200 megawatts to California.


Farmers have been struggling as well, trying get work crews into the fields in the early mornings to avoid the worst of the heat and running water misters to keep cattle from dying. Vegetables, fruit and even wine grapes could be affected.


"The conditions, staying this hot for this long, are simply too much for the most vulnerable residents," state Sen. Dean Florez said as he called on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to declare a state of emergency in the Central Valley to make more financial and personnel resources available.


Schwarzenegger said he had already taken action to help residents cope with the heat, pointing to 75 cooling centers available at fairgrounds and conservation measures to avoid blackouts.


"There's not much more we can do," he said. "I don't know what it means to declare a state of emergency when we're already doing everything."


At least six Central Valley counties declared local states of emergency that allow farmers to bury livestock killed by the heat in landfills or on their own properties -- disposal methods not normally allowed by state water laws.


July has seen extreme heat across the country. In St. Louis, the misery was worsened by storms that knocked down power lines last week in the worst blackout in city history. Most of the 12 Missouri deaths attributed to the heat wave occurred in the St. Louis area, where about 34,000 homes and businesses remained without power Thursday.


Missouri regulators opened an investigation into whether AmerenUE and other utilities were properly prepared for the storms, and whether they responded adequately.





Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...