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Death possibly linked to California heat
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — A possibly heat-related death was under investigation Friday as inland California faced continuing triple-digit temperatures and calls for power conservation to prevent outages.

Cindy Marie Grycel, 49, was found unresponsive on the ground next to her wheelchair on a San Bernardino street at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday. She was pronounced dead at a hospital late Thursday, the San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner Department said.

"The cause of her death appears to be heat-related, but an autopsy is scheduled to confirm this diagnosis," the department said in a statement that noted Grycel had no known family.

National Weather Service online records from various San Bernardino locations show temperatures were at or near 100 degrees at the time the she was found.

The weather service has been issuing excessive-heat warnings because of the dangers of prolonged high temperatures, and cities such as Los Angeles have extended the hours of senior citizen and recreation centers to give people places to keep cool.

At midafternoon Friday a string of temperatures surpassed the century mark up and down the state: 116 at Needles on the Colorado River, 106 in the Woodland Hills area of Los Angeles, 107 in Fresno, and 103 in Redding, north of Sacramento.

Some relief was in sight. Forecasters said temperatures would cool to near normal by early next week and later to slightly below normal.

The California Independent System Operator, which manages most of the state's grid, declared a so-called Flex Alert for voluntary energy conservation on Friday but lifted Flex Alerts that had been issued for Saturday and Sunday. The alert calls on residents, businesses and governments to cut back on use of electricity between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. to prevent reserves from falling to emergency levels.

Record-breaking highs for the date were recorded Thursday in several Southern California areas. Lancaster's 109 degrees broke a 1980 record of 106. The Woodland Hills area of Los Angeles also reported 109 and Sandberg in the Antelope Valley had 98. Several desert areas had their warmest lows for the date. Palm Springs reported a low of 89, 3 degrees above the 2003 record.

Valleys and inland areas have been baking all week, bringing the summer's first real test of electrical supplies without the help of the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

The twin-reactor generating station on the coast between San Diego and Los Angeles has been offline all year since a small radiation leak from a steam tube led to the discovery of more extensive problems.

An unexpected outage at the Ormond Beach Generating Station, a gas-fired power plant in Ventura County, was partially responsible for triggering the alert because it took out 775 megawatts of energy from the grid, Cal-ISO said.

Electrical demand, particularly from so many air conditioners in operation at the same time, puts a strain on components of distribution systems such as power lines and transformers.

The call for conservation was echoed by utilities such as Southern California Edison, which serves an area with about 14 million people, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which supplies the nation's second-largest city.

The National Weather Service said the heat was being caused by a stationary area of high pressure over the southwestern United States. The weather pattern has been marked by a steep drop-off of temperatures toward the coast, where beach cities have been in the balmy 70s.