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Published:July 28th, 2006 13:50 EST
Deadly California Heat Wave Eases Some

Deadly California Heat Wave Eases Some

By Karina Chavarria

The heat wave that has been baking California since mid-July is slowly diminishing as weather officials expire the heat advisories and the high temperatures begin to drop on Friday. The wave is said to be responsible for nearly 100 deaths. Regions most affected by the scorching temperatures, such as the Central Valley, are still expected to experience temperatures close to 100 degrees on Friday. Yet, this is still a relief from such temperatures as 115 degrees, which most cities have had to tolerate the past two weeks

"It's a little slower than we would like, but the heat is finally moving out," Kathy Hoxsie, a meteorologist with the US National Weather Service, told the Associated Press news agency.

Fresno County coroner Loralee Cervantes said her staff was trying to investigate at least 22 possible heat-related deaths.

Bodies were piled up in the mortuary's freezers, she said.

"It's never been like this in my years here. This is really tragic," said Ms Cervantes.

Cervantes said that many of the dead were elderly, who often were too afraid to leave their windows open.

On Thursday morning, the Fresno morgue, which rarely has more than 25 bodies at a time, had to deal with 58, the New York Times reported.

Californians attempting to cool-off in the midst of the heat have set records for energy consumption, surprising the Department of Water and Power officials, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In previous weeks, the utility's energy use peaked at 5,661 megawatts. Because of the heat wave, demand rose to about 6,165 megawatts. The rising energy consumption astonished 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 L.A. Times. The utility serves well over one million consumers.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has visited the Central Valley.

"As the record heat wave continues, we must protect our outdoor workers in the sweltering summer heat," he said.

Employers should make sure their workers have access to shade and water. Under emergency regulations, the safety of out door workers is now permanently in force.

Governor Schwarzenegger also emphasized the need for individuals to take precautions in order to avoid heat exhaustion and to look out for others, especially older people.

"A mobilized force of local workers will continue to knock on doors and make phone calls to protect our vulnerable residents who may be exposed to the relentless heat," a statement from the governor's office said.

July has been an extreme month for heat across the country. In places like St. Louis, Missouri the scorching heat was accompanied by severe storms that ravaged neighborhoods and knocked down power lines, resulting in one of the worst black outs in the state’s history.