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 38 and the rotting carcasses of thousands of dairy cows and other livestock baked in the sun.
Some communities faced their third day without electricity as the record-breaking temperatures strained transmission equipment. CBS News correspondent Jerry Bowen reports that generators are humming in hundreds of neighborhoods where tens of thousands are without power. Some residents have even chosen to sleep outside.
"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 100-plus degree scorchers that descended on the state last week marks the first time in 57 years that both Northern and Southern California have experienced extended heat waves simultaneously, California Undersecretary for Energy Affairs Joe Desmond said.
In the Central Valley, where most of the deaths have occurred, temperatures were expected to reach 100 to 105 degrees on Tuesday, down from 110 to 115 in previous days. Truly cooler weather was not expected until Wednesday, when the system was forecast to move east into Nevada and Utah.
Coroners in 11 counties were investigating deaths that appeared heat-related. Most of the victims were elderly. Among the dead was a nursing home patient in Stockton, California, who died after the air conditioning gave out in 115-degree weather. A gardener collapsed on the job and died. A woman was found dead along a bike path.
The sweltering heat has been hard on livestock as well, causing thousands of deaths and a dip in milk production in the No. 1 dairy state of the U.S., according to agriculture officials.
In California's San Joaquin Valley, a combination of the searing heat, bigger dairies and fewer plants to properly dispose of dead animals created a backlog of rotting 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, and some residents slept in backyards and hotel rooms to escape the stifling heat.
Pacific Gas & Electric spokesman Brian Swanson said most outages were caused by equipment failures and not a shortage of electricity.
In St. Louis, about 145,000 homes and businesses still without power after two storms last week knocked out electricity to nearly 600,000 customers. A utility worker was electrocuted Tuesday and another was injured while trying to restore power.
Many grew frustrated with Ameren Corp.'s handling of the crisis. The black civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton led a protest Tuesday in front of Ameren headquarters, saying the company was not doing enough to help poor and working-class people. He also called for a 10 percent rate cut to help the community recover.
Ameren officials have said the company responded within 15 minutes after the storm hit.
In New York City, where a power outage that left thousands of homes and businesses without air conditioning in Queens entered its ninth day Tuesday, utility officials said they still could not say when service would be restored to everyone.