Farmers, homeless shelters prepare for low temperatures

The Associated Press
Tuesday November 14, 2000

LOS ANGELES — Record low temperatures in California had farmers scrambling to protect citrus and vegetable crops from potential frost while homeless shelters prepared to welcome an influx of street-people fleeing near-freezing cold. 

The National Weather Service issued pre-dawn frost and freeze warnings Monday in areas stretching from San Luis Obispo to San Diego County, which includes thousands of acres of agriculturally rich farmland. There were snow warnings for the Sacramento Valley, northern Sierra Nevada, Owens Valley and Death Valley. 

Forecasts showed inland temperatures hovering just above the mid-30s, which created anxiety for citrus growers in the San Joaquin Valley and lettuce, avocado and broccoli farmers in the Coachella and Imperial valley areas. 

“Growers are getting ready to run irrigation water or wind machines to circulate warmer air through their groves. They have to be sure the equipment works in case the weather dips into the critical range,” Bob Krauter, spokesman for California Farm Bureau Federation in Sacramento. 

The mountain resort of Idyllwild in the San Bernardino National Forest recorded a teeth-chattering 16 degrees Sunday. Its old record low for Nov. 12 was 23 degrees reached in 1985. 

The Antelope Valley area of Lancaster dropped to a record 21 degrees on Sunday, down from 23 in 1992. Santa Barbara Airport had a record low of 32, down from 36 in 1985. 

“We’re entering that fall-winter season,” said Rich Thompson, a National Weather Service meteorologist. “There’s just a really, really cold air-mass over the state from Canada and the Pacific Northwest. With no cloud cover at night, it allows temperatures to drop very fast.” 

Thompson predicted that rural valleys will see temperatures in the upper 20s to mid-30s for the rest of the week, while other areas of California will see “pretty chilly nights” on average in the mid-30s to low 40s. 

The weather service also issued frost advisories for Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Sensitive plants must be brought indoors or otherwise protected. 

Farmers have not reported crop damage yet, and the cool temperatures may actually help some crops as long as the air doesn’t drop below freezing. 

“This is the time of year when many tree and vine crops in California require chilling hours – when the temperature is below 45 degrees – to put them in dormancy for wintertime,” Krauter said. “That will give them a lot of vigor when they start producing the 2001 crop.” 

Meantime, homeless shelters in San Jose have begun offering more services during the day to lure people off the street through the cold snap. The city estimates that on any given night, as many as 1,100 people have no shelter in the city. 

In Los Angeles, emergency shelters which open only under certain weather conditions were preparing to make about 2,100 more beds available while regular shelters began filling to capacity. 


“In this weather, people living out on the street are bound to get sick. They could easily catch cold, and the worst-case scenario is they develop respiratory infections,” said Ruth Schwartz, executive director of Shelter Partnership, an agency that provides technical assistance, research and resources for homeless service providers. 

Some homeless people who are already weak or ill could also die from exposure in even moderately cold temperatures, she added. 

About 13,600 beds are available year-round in Los Angeles. The last U.S. Census count listed about 7,700 homeless in the city, but homeless advocates estimate the number is three times higher. 

The National Weather Service predicted that California’s rural valleys will see nightly temperatures in the upper 20s to mid-30s during the rest of the week, while urban areas will reach the mid-30s to low 40s.