SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gripped by a 10th straight day of 100-degree heat, California sweated out the possibility of more blackouts Tuesday as the number of suspected heat-related deaths climbed to at least 56 and the carcasses of thousands of dairy cows and other livestock baked in the sun.
Some communities faced their third day without electricity as record-breaking temperatures strained transmission equipment.
“We’re asking people for one more day of conservation,” said Gregg Fishman, the California Independent System Operator, which manages the state’s power grid. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”
The stretch of scorchers marks the first time in 57 years that both Northern and Southern California have simultaneously experienced extended heat waves, California Undersecretary for Energy Affairs Joe Desmond said.
In the Central Valley, where most of the deaths have occurred, temperatures hovered between 100 and 105 degrees Tuesday, down from 110 to 115 in previous days. Cooler weather was expected today, when the system was forecast to move east into Nevada and Utah.
Coroners in 14 counties were investigating deaths that appeared heat-related. Most of the victims were elderly. Among the dead was a nursing home patient in Stockton who died after the air conditioning gave out in 115-degree weather. On Tuesday, three elderly residents of single-room occupancy hotels within four blocks of the state Capitol were found dead. The rooms had no air conditioning.
The heat has been hard on livestock as well, causing thousands of deaths and a dip in milk production in California, the No. 1 dairy state, according to agriculture officials.
In the San Joaquin Valley, a combination of the searing heat, bigger dairies and fewer plants to properly dispose of dead animals created a backlog of carcasses.
“They’re just sitting out there in the sun, drawing flies,” said Fresno County dairy farmer Brian Pacheco.
Tens of thousands of customers in Northern and Southern California had no electricity. About 1,700 San Jose customers faced their third day without power.
Pacific Gas &Electric spokesman Brian Swanson said most outages were caused by equipment failures, not a shortage of electricity.
In Los Angeles, about 26,000 people were in the dark Tuesday evening as crews scrambled to fix hundreds of blown transformers, said a spokeswoman for the city Department of Water and Power.
Elsewhere, about 145,000 homes and businesses in St. Louis still were without power after two storms last week knocked out electricity to nearly 600,000 customers.
In New York City, a blackout that left about 100,000 people without electricity for nine days all but ended Tuesday. Consolidated Edison said fewer than 500 people in the borough of Queens remained without electricity as of Tuesday evening.