Four people in the South Bay die due to cold weather

Santa Clara County health officials don't want to lose any more people due to the cold weather, which is why they'll be stepping up their efforts in reaching out to the homeless.

Since Nov. 28, four homeless men, all in their 40s and 50s, have died from hypothermia in Santa Clara County. According to county health officials, one person died in a garage in Saratoga. Three others died in San Jose -- one at Lincoln Ave. under a freeway, another under a bridge along Highway 87 at Delmas Ave, and another person at Curtner and Canoas Garden avenues.

In response to the four deaths, three of which took place over the past two days, Santa Clara County's three emergency shelters will be open all day in addition to all night, and they'll be adding more beds, from 275 beds to 650 beds. They say no one will be turned away and outreach workers will be making more of an effort to persuade the homeless to take advantage of the shelters. The public is also being asked to help.

"What they can do out in the community to assist or help, in which I greatly appreciate the need and compassion in this community is impressive, what's really important to understand is this is something that should never happen in this community," EHC Lifebuilders CEO Jenny Niklaus said. "But while it is occurring we need great resources. We need things like blankets and socks, ponchos, all of those things are really important."

Outreach workers know many of the homeless will insist on staying outside in the cold, so they will be going to homeless encampments offering blankets, ponchos and socks, items which they say they will always gladly accept from the public as donations.

County officials say they will find a place for everyone who asks for a warm place to sleep.

Freeze Warning expires; chilly temperatures remain

A Freeze Warning expired at 9 a.m. Friday, but Bay Area residents are still dealing with icy conditions and chilly temperatures. A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect Friday at 10 p.m. through Saturday at 10 a.m.

The Bay Area cold snap burst pipes in some cities. Martinez residents woke up to water gushing down the street from a broken pipe near Pacheco Blvd. and Martinez Ave. Folks are being advised to cover outside pipes and plants to protect them from icy conditions.

The cold snap will have a lot of us facing slightly higher heating bills soon.

PG&E says energy demand is high, but they don't foresee any problems related to the cold.

"We will have adequate supply of gas to handle this cold snap," PG&E spokesperson Tamar Sarkissian said. "In fact, we anticipate much colder snaps through the season and we're always prepared for those situations."

Meanwhile, a power outage in the North Bay meant thousands had to do without heat on one of the coldest mornings of the year. The outage had an especially hurtful impact on businesses and school kids in Benicia.

With frost on the ground and covering the cars, it was not a good morning to be without power.

"No hot water and no power," Benicia resident Tom Vernon said. "So I'm doing everything by candlelight."

Vernon was one of about 4,100 customers in Benicia who lost power Friday morning, which meant no heat, no hot showers, and no power for the coffee maker.

"Yeah, I gotta go get some coffee," Vernon said.

But even Starbucks lost power, which meant several disappointed caffeine junkies.

"We were hoping to warm up and have a little coffee, but…" said one frustrated Starbucks customer.

You know it's cold when even the automated voice of Siri on the iPhone makes a comment. When asked what the temperature is, Siri responded with, "Brrr. It's 27 degrees Fahrenheit outside."

Benicia Middle School was one of the PG&E customers that lost power. But administrators decided to have class anyway.

"Well, if they all go home and their parents are at work and there's no plans for them to be supervised or taken care of, it'll be better that they're here," said Ron Garcia with Benicia Middle School.

But without heat or light, teachers were quickly trying to figure out a new lesson plan.

"Maybe go in the gym that has a little bit of light and sit together and think warm thoughts," Garcia said.

Then there's the financial hardship for businesses like Huckleberry's Café, which counts Friday breakfast as its busiest time of the week.

"This is painful, yeah Fridays are a big day for us, so this is painful," owner Cal Lundin said. "We're only open til three, our hours are seven to three, so it's gonna be kind of a bad day for us."

The Starbucks and the middle school both go their power back later Friday morning.

PG&E is blaming the outage on a damaged underground cable.

The cold weather isn't just affecting businesses and residents. The group Save Mt. Diablo saw a potential problem with its annual Pearl Harbor remembrance event. The newly-restored beacon at the summit will still be lit on Saturday, but the ceremony has been moved to Cal State East Bay in Concord due to the threat of snow.

Temperatures are expected to rise slightly on Friday, but rain is expected on Saturday, as well as snow above 2,500 feet throughout the Bay Area.

Officials with the National Weather Service say motorists in the region should drive with extra caution on Saturday night and Sunday morning, when runoff from rain and snow is expected to create icy patches on area roadways.

Warmer temperatures are expected next week.

The cold snap is the result of a high-pressure cold air mass that originated in Northern Canada.

Chilly Bay Area weather breaks records

* At 26 degrees, Livermore tied an old record set in 2009

* At 33 degrees, Mountain View broke an old record of 34 set in 2005.

* At 25 degrees, Napa broke an old record of 29 degrees set in 1948.

* At 37 degrees, downtown Oakland broke an old record of 38 set in 1972.

* At 40 degrees, San Francisco tied an old record set in 2009.

* At 37 degrees, SFO tied an old record set in 1972

* At 30 degrees, San Jose broke an old record of 32 set in 1972.

* At 30 degrees, San Rafael broke an old record of 32 degrees set in 2009.

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(ABC7 News reporters Lilian Kim, Laura Anthony and Amy Hollyfield and Bay City News contributed to this story)

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