About 140 Californians died last month from a severe heat wave, the most casualties since 1955, before air conditioning was widespread. Officials were left scrambling to explain the inordinately high number of deaths, unusual for a place where people are used to the summer heat. Beyond the human toll, much of California?s vast agriculture was destroyed by the unrelenting heat, with temperatures remaining high for weeks, even during the night.
New York Times:
Summers are to the Central Valley of California what winters are to northern Maine; people who live here are used to them, prepare for them, and to some extent are not fazed by them. The valley is the agricultural center of the state, and people here are used to toiling on hot days in fields, knocking around in their gardens and generally going about their business, knowing that the nights will bring relief from the dry heat that sears the day.
But for 13 straight days last month, things went differently. ?This heat wave was marked by three things,? said Eric A. Weiss, a professor of emergency medicine at Stanford University Medical Center and an expert on heat-related illnesses.
?There was the duration, which is always important because of the cumulative effect,? Dr. Weiss went on. ?Two, there were the record temperatures. And three, it did not cool down at night.?