Calif. heat wave ends with a death toll near 25
By Jennifer Steinhauer
New York Times
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
LOS ANGELES — A week of excessively high temperatures has ended in Southern California after causing more than 20 deaths and sporadic power failures.
State officials confirmed on Thursday that five people had died statewide from heat-related causes. Coroners’ reports placed the death toll closer to 25.
Last year, the state experienced one of its deadliest heat waves, with at least 140 deaths, the highest since 1955.
In the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles, temperatures hit 112 on Sept. 1 and 2, far above the normal high of 94, the National Weather Service said. In the Simi Valley, northwest of here, residents endured 111 degrees.
In Los Angeles County, 18 fatalities were suspected to be heat related, including a 26-year-old who was found dead in a canyon after becoming separated from friends while riding a dirt bike.
In Imperial County, near the Mexican border, the authorities investigated at least 10 deaths.
Although many of the deaths occurred among the elderly, who tend to be the most vulnerable in a heat wave, some victims here were in their 40s and 50s, the authorities said.
“People have a tendency to take the heat lightly,” Capt. Ed Winter of the Los Angeles coroner’s office said. “They want to go about their own business, and next thing you know, the temperature goes up.”
A surge in power use caused blackouts across the southwestern region of the state, enraging residents and leaving many to sleep alfresco.
By the afternoon, as temperatures fell, 1,000 Southern California Edison customers remained without power, the utility said. The company, which was unable to tell customers when power would be restored, has 4.8 million accounts.
The death toll was lower than last summer, some officials suggested, because the high temperatures lasted just one week compared with two weeks in 2006, along with a new state emergency plan.