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Heat Wave Kills 110 In Calif. & Mo.

It's ever so slightly cooler in California, with the power back on, but temperatures are still near 100 degrees in the hard-hit Central Valley, and the death toll so far is 98. In Missouri and Illinois, 38,000 homes and businesses are still without power, a week after the storms that originally triggered the outages there.

In Missouri, the death toll is 12, and state regulators have launched an investigation into the utility's actions – both before and after the storms.

About 600,000 Ameren customers lost power in Missouri and Illinois - most in the St. Louis area - because of the July 19 and July 21 storms.

In New York, the lights are on – have been for over 24 hours, after more than a week of problems, but the city's mayor is wary. Michael Bloomberg postponed a trip to Ireland, saying he'd stay close at hand, since "our electrical grid remains vulnerable."

In Idaho, the power is on – but with energy consumption hitting new highs, it is asking customers to conserve electricity to avoid any outages.

"What we're just asking is to use some common sense and conserve energy," said Idaho Power spokesman Dennis Lopez. "If there's a television set that's on and nobody's watching, turn it off. If extra lights are on, shut those off."

In California, highs around the state are expected to finally dip below the triple-digit mark.

"It's a little slower than we would like, but the heat is finally moving out," said Kathy Hoxsie, an NWS meteorologist. "The high pressure that played a big role in the higher temperatures and humidity is finally getting pushed off."

On California's 12th straight day of scorching weather, aid workers went door-to-door checking on the elderly, who are most vulnerable to extreme heat, while Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger urged at-risk residents to take advantage of dozens of cooling centers set up this week.

In Fresno County's morgue, the walk-in freezer is stuffed with bodies, with some piled on top of others, said Coroner Loralee Cervantes. With limited air conditioning, employees worked in sweltering heat as the coroner's office investigated at least 22 possible heat-related deaths.

"It's never been like this in my years here," Cervantes said. "This is really tragic."

Stanislaus County is investigating whether triple-digit heat was responsible for 20 deaths, and Sacramento County reported 11 possible heat victims.

Kern County is investigating eight possible heat-related deaths, including two Bakersfield brothers who were found dead in their beds in a home with no air conditioning Wednesday evening, according to Deputy Coroner Kelly Cowan.

Ronald L. Jones, 57, and Gerald G. Jones, 68, likely died from heat-related causes, Cowan said. A neighbor had seen them drinking coffee together on their front porch that morning.

In Modesto, Salvation Army workers knocked on doors to check on elderly residents who regularly receive meals through its Meals on Wheels program.

Doug Lilly, who usually delivers meals to about 65 people each week, said he was making sure residents were keeping cool and didn't need extra medical attention.

"I'm just making sure they're all right, they're hydrated," Lilly said, carrying a frozen meal packet with chicken and potatoes and cartons of milk and juice.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Thursday that 75 cooling centers are available at fairgrounds statewide. Health officials are also contacting nursing homes to make sure they had evacuation plans in place in case their air conditioning systems failed, he said.

Speaking at an almond orchard in Merced, Schwarzenegger said emergency regulations aimed at protecting outdoor workers from the heat would become permanent. The rules declared last year ensure that workers have access to cold water, shade and rest breaks if they feel the onset of heat stroke.

"I didn't want to sit back and watch people suffer," Schwarzenegger said. "We're doing everything we can to help the state."

State Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, called on Schwarzenegger to declare a state of emergency in the Central Valley to make more financial and personnel resources available.

"Record-breaking heat requires a record-breaking response," Flores said. "The conditions, staying this hot for this long, are simply too much for the most vulnerable residents."

Schwarzenegger said he had already taken "action" to help state residents cope with the record heat, pointing to the cooling centers and conservation measures to avoid blackouts.

"There's not much more we can do," he said. "I don't know what it means to declare a state of emergency when we're already doing everything."

Spokeswoman Margita Thompson said no counties have asked the state for an emergency declaration.

At least six Central Valley counties have already declared local states of emergency that allow farmers to bury livestock killed by the heat in landfills or on their own properties - disposal methods not normally allowed by state water laws.

Temperatures already began cooling along the coast Thursday, with a comfortable high of 67 in San Francisco, but parts of the Central Valley saw only minor relief - Fresno still reached 105 and Bakersfield hit 107.

The number of consecutive days when temperatures surpassed 110 degrees was unprecedented for California, meteorologists said. Woodland Hills, which set a Los Angeles County record of 119 degrees Saturday, hit 102 degrees Thursday, its 22nd day of triple-digit heat.

Cooler weather and increased conservation helped ease the strain on the power grid, with no service interruptions reported Thursday, after two power emergencies were called earlier in the week. Power companies also said they had restored service to nearly all customers who lost power when heavy electricity usage and hot weather blew out thousands of transformers.

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