Californians expect another sweltering day - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

Californians expect another sweltering day

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Posted: Wednesday, July 26, 2006 6:05 am | Updated: 3:42 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The high-pressure system over California that has brought 100-degree weather to the state wasn't budging Wednesday, promising an 11th straight day of sweltering heat, the potential of more deaths and another strain on utilities.

The National Weather Service predicted temperatures around the state to fall several degrees, but the misery index would remain high as the mercury hovers well over 100 in many parts. The gradual cooling trend was expected to continue through the week.

Stephanie McCorkle, spokeswoman for the California Independent System Operator, which manages the power grid, said the ISO did not anticipate declaring another power emergency Wednesday.

State and local authorities reported at least 56 possible heat-related deaths since the mercury first spiked upward, most in the smoldering Central Valley and deserts east of Los Angeles.

The power supply remained adequate Tuesday, but that didn't stop blackouts throughout the state, as record demand and high temperatures caused transformers to explode.

The state's power consumption peaked Tuesday afternoon at 49,762 megawatts, shy of the record 50,270 megawatts set Monday. The total number of California residents who have lost electricity at some point during the heat wave topped 1.5 million.

"This is a historic heat wave," Undersecretary for Energy Affairs Joe Desmond said, noting that it was the first time in 57 years that both northern and southern California - an area stretching nearly 900 miles - has experienced simultaneous, extended heat waves.

In Fresno, where temperatures topped 110 degrees for a fourth straight day Tuesday, families and workers on their lunch break crowded a shaded, outdoor eating area of Mariscos Colima, a seafood and taco haunt.

"It's too hot to cook," said Celia Cisneros, 31, who enjoyed shrimp cocktails and iced fruit drinks with her two children. "We wanted something refreshing. Nobody wants hot food on a hot day."

In Los Angeles, about 26,000 people were in the dark Tuesday night as crews scrambled to fix hundreds of blown up transformers, said Carol Tucker, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Water and Power. "We have enough power to meet the demand, it's the equipment that can't handle it," Tucker said.

Extreme heat in the San Joaquin Valley hit dairy farms hard, as cows keeled over by the hundreds. Fewer plants to properly dispose of dead animals meant a backlog of rotting carcasses.

Milk production in California, the nation's No. 1 dairy state, was down by as much as 15 percent because of the heat, according to the California Farm Bureau.

High temperatures also heated up a political debate between Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides and Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Angelides said he would build more power plants, appoint an energy czar to improve energy efficiency and maintain a 15 percent power reserve. He also called on Schwarzenegger to declare a state of emergency in California to open more shelters and make other arrangements for those trapped in the heat.

A Schwarzenegger campaign spokesman dismissed Angelides' energy plan as a "push for bigger, more expensive government."

As for an emergency declaration, Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Margita Thompson said the governor had already ordered cooling centers opened on Monday and state emergency workers were coordinating with local governments to get at-risk residents to those sites.

California wasn't the only state dealing with the strain of the heat. The St. Louis area was expected to have electricity restored Wednesday to all customers, thousands of whom have been without power for a week.

Two massive storms last week knocked out power to nearly 600,000 homes and businesses. The violent weather and resulting blackouts were blamed for five deaths.

Miltina Burnett, of Wellston, was elated when her electricity came back on Tuesday. "I am going to take a cool shower, turn on the air conditioning and watch some TV," Burnett said.

In the Queens borough of New York City, a blackout that left about 100,000 people without electricity during some of the hottest days of the year ended early Wednesday, allowing weary residents who endured nine days of rotting food and sweltering homes to begin getting back to normal.

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