Bay Area weathers hard freeze

Cold Weather in the East Bay

The freezing weather is perfect for Santa Claus who made an early appearance at the Tilden Park merry-go-round, where the carousel is celebrating its 100th anniversary. However, these temperatures aren't so perfect for families.

"Well I think the weather is keeping everyone away a little bit. You got to bundle up [before getting] everyone out the door, especially if you have kids," says Lawrence Liu.

At The Little Farm in Tilden Park, the small animals took shelter in the barn and those animals suited for this weather stayed outside, but the cows preferred to huddle under their shelter.

Meanwhile, REI saw more skiers and snowboarders eager to carve up the fresh snow in Tahoe, instead of a turkey this Thanksgiving.

"I heard about it this weekend which got me really excited," said Stephanie Giacomelli from Sebastapol.

The store also saw a rush on warm weather clothing.

"Lots of people who are riding their bike around town are coming in rain gear. People around town also need gloves and hats right now just because it is so cold," said Amber Hoffmann from REI in Berkeley.

The Homeless

Because of the cold, Santa Clara County is asking all homeless shelters to do whatever it takes to serve the county's 7,000 homeless. The last time this alert went out was Dec. 2009.

At one of InnVision's five homeless shelters, they are committed to setting up mats on the floor if necessary. Lots of people are desperate just to stay out of the cold.

"Even intoxicated folks we'll take. We just want people out of the cold so we don't have any deaths," says InnVision's Senior Program Director Lorena Collins.

For now, there's a no questions asked policy here. If you need to sleep, they'll make space.

At EHC LifeBuilders, the emergency cold weather alert means they'll make an extra 125 beds available now, instead of Monday when they had planned to add the beds to their San Jose shelter and open the Sunnyvale and Gilroy National Guard armories.

"There's only about 1,000 emergency beds in Santa Clara County and we have at least 7,000 people outside on a nightly basis," says Jenny Niklaus from EHC LifeBuilders.

But the sudden surge of people in the shelters worries some of the newly homeless.

"People that will come in, you don't know they could be stealing what you have, a blanket that you have on your bed, your belongings," says Marlene Bettcher who is homeless.

The non-profits say the majority of this year's homeless population is made up of working families.

San Jose police plan to come by the shelters a few times to check on things and during nights like these, officers will also make extra patrols through homeless camps to make sure people are safe and not freezing.

Prepping the garden

Three years ago, Sonoma resident Donna Lewis lost oranges, limes and lemons, all to a hard freeze. Her fountain even froze. So she's not taking any chances this time. She has been spraying her citrus trees with a protective coating, hoping that will help.

"There are some things that are going to go... there's a lot of things that will go, and that's what we're concerned about," says Lewis.

And that's what Art Sinclair of Wedekind's Garden Center has been hearing all day -- gardeners worried about the first hard freeze. Winter slammed the Bay Area last weekend, with five inches of snow falling on Mt. Hamilton.

Plants most vulnerable to the freeze are citrus, orange, lemons and limes. Tropical plants are also at risk. The rain we've had the past several days though, could help.

"Plants are better protected if they're hydrated because they're full of moisture," says Sinclair. "A dry plant goes into frost harder. There's more severe damage if the plant is dry, whether it be in your ground or in a pot."

Covering the plants with an insulating, breathable material adds a blanket of protection from overnight lows expected to Dip into the twenties. Sprays that add a protective coating are also recommended.

"Flower petals here can be damaged with the frost," says Sinclair.

Even our winter varieties can sustain frost damage when temperatures drop below 30 degrees. Covering winter blooming Pansies and Cyclamen will extend their blooming cycle. A hard freeze over an extended period can actually kill hearty shrubs, rosemary, and other evergreens.

Hardware stores were also busy with folks buying up insulated wraps and tape to keep water pipes from freezing.

"More than likely it's the pipes that enter your house from the exterior, copper pipes, galvanized pipes, PVC pipes, pool equipment, all the different types of pipes you have exposed outside," says Pat Carpenter of Friedman's Hardware.

Also, don't forget about your pets and be sure to bring them inside. And here's a useful tip: the holiday lights outside your home actually help to keep plants warmer.

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