Temperatures made a barely noticeable dip Wednesday on the 11th day of more than 100-degree (38 Celsius) heat, but the stress on California's electric grid eased slightly, as did the possibility of rolling blackouts.
Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses lost power at the peak, but just a few thousand remained in the dark Wednesday. Still, the widespread failures have left little opportunity for routine maintenance.
The coroner's office in Fresno County, which has reported 20 deaths as likely heat-caused, had bodies stacked two to a gurney because there were so many. Coroner Loralee Cervantes said that her staff was doing autopsies nonstop and that decomposition of some bodies made the cause of death difficult to determine.
Nineteen deaths were reported in neighboring Stanislaus County, and seven in Sacramento County. In all, 18 counties reported heat-related deaths.
Near Mexico, the Border Patrol found the body of one illegal immigrant whose death might be heat-related. It was unclear whether that death was included in the heat wave death toll.
Border Patrol agents also discovered one seriously dehydrated immigrant who was returned to Mexico and three women were hospitalized after being abandoned in the locked trunk of a car for 90 minutes by a driver who ran away after spotting a Border Patrol checkpoint.
An achingly slow cooling trend will cause highs to drop a few degrees by the weekend in California, according to National Weather Service forecaster Jim Dudley.