Death Toll Rises in California's Heat Wave The death toll in California's heat wave continues to rise. Officials have linked over 130 deaths to the record-breaking temperatures. Michele Norris talks with Tamara Keith from member station KPCC.
NPR logo

Death Toll Rises in California's Heat Wave

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Death Toll Rises in California's Heat Wave

Death Toll Rises in California's Heat Wave

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Michele Norris.

Heat advisories for California were lifted today as forecasters predicted daytime temperatures to stay below 100 degrees for most of the state. Officials have linked over 100 deaths to the record-breaking heat wave which began July 16th.

Joining us from Sacramento is reporter Tamara Keith for member station KPCC. Tamara what can you tell us about these deaths?

TAMARA KEITH reporting:

Well, they were mostly older people and a lot of people who lived alone. There were several folks in residential motels that didn't have air conditioning. There was at least one person in a nursing home where the air conditioner stopped working.

Most of these deaths occurred earlier this week when the weather was the hottest. And, although the number is at around 100, some of those are confirmed and some of those are presumed to be deaths related to heat, because coroners are just overloaded around the state.

NORRIS: People assume that Californians are used to hot temperatures. What was about this heat wave that made is so deadly?

KEITH: Well, it was just a long, hot heat wave. We're accustomed to 100 degrees, 101 degrees, and that's something that folks can handle. But, these were temperatures - 112, 115. It was just incredibly hot. And there were also power outages.

NORRIS: And so what are people doing now to try to keep cool?

KEITH: Well, earlier in the week they set up cooling centers at all of the state fairgrounds in all the different counties, various other cooling centers and senior centers, and folks were encouraging people to go to McDonald's or go to the mall just to get out of their homes.

NORRIS: Any effort to check in on shut-ins, people who live by themselves?

KEITH: Yes, absolutely. As soon as they started to see that these deaths were coming in these residential motels, the governor actually ordered health officials and county health officials to go door-to-door in all the residential motels to make sure that folks were okay.

There were also folks with Meals on Wheels and some other programs that were checking on the elderly. And also people were checking on their neighbors. And in fact that's how many of the deaths were discovered is, people were just checking in on their friendly neighbor who they always check in on and unfortunately made some sad discoveries.

NORRIS: You're near what they call the California fruit basket. Has this affected the crops or the livestock in that area?

KEITH: Both, and pretty significantly. They're seeing a lot of deaths of cattle, so much so that some counties have declared states of emergencies because the rendering plants can't take any more animals. And also milk production is way down, which you would expect when it's this hot. Cows don't sweat, so they sort of shut down a little bit.

Also, peaches apparently are going to be affected. Walnuts are cooking in their shells. And the workers themselves who have to harvest these crops, it's hard on them, too.

NORRIS: What are the temperatures like there in and around Sacramento?

KEITH: Well, actually, this heat wave has really broken. It's supposed to be 90 degrees today, which is downright cool compared to what we've been experiencing. And in fact it's supposed to continue cooling down around the rest of the state through the coming weekend.

NORRIS: What would be considered a normal summer temperature there in the northern part of the state?

KEITH: Right around 90 degrees. I checked and I think our average is supposed to be 93 for this month. So it's certainly warm in the Sacramento area - it's cooler in the Bay area - but, not as hot as it was.

NORRIS: Tamara Keith, thanks so much.

KEITH: Thank you.

NORRIS: That was Tamara Keith from member station KPCC.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.