Freezing temps cause trouble around Bay Area

January 17, 2012 7:10:25 PM PST
A devastating fire tore through a Martinez home known for its festive holiday decorations. Just before 4 a.m. Tuesday, the fire started inside the home that was being heated by a pellet stove during the coldest night of the season and fortunately the family of five escaped when the fire broke out.

The house was fully engulfed in flames when fire crews arrived. Smoke alarms, which a fire official said had just been replaced the day before, awakened the residents who then escaped. The fire marshal told ABC7 the pellet stove was being used to heat the house. He said the fire started when combustibles placed too close to the stove ignited. Gone was the so-called Christmas house, a home that was transformed every December into a wonderland of lights, sounds and magic of the Christmas season. The estimated damages to the house are $350,000.

A woman who lives in St. Helena -- one of the coldest places in the Bay Area -- said it got down to 19 degrees last night. It was a degree above freezing early Tuesday morning in San Jose and elsewhere, it was cold enough that drainage ditches froze. Dealing with icy white windshields has become routine at some car dealerships.

"Actually this week every day and last week, we were coming to work with the cars completely frozen over," said Stephanie Malone, a car salesperson.

At the farmers market outside the Ferry Building in San Francisco, produce growers complained about the frost. They said it was affecting their irrigation and haven't been able to irrigate crops since they don't want standing water to freeze.

Everything is growing slowly because of the cold. Tulips have been stunted. Howard McGinnis of Watsonville says he was picking strawberries until last week.

"This hard frost came and it cooked them all, but it's very rare to pick strawberries in January in Watsonville," said McGinnis.

Many people are now waiting for the rain, which is expected later this week, especially the skiers.

Another freeze warning is in effect for Tuesday night. It will start at 11 p.m. and end Wednesday at 8 a.m. There will be low temperatures in the 20s, freeze damage to sensitive plants, and patches of ice, especially on bridges and overpasses.