Cold weather in Southern California brings fun for skiers, sleepless nights for farmers

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69947 full

The weekend cold snap temporarily closed freeways, caused a small power outage and made farmers work all night - but the effects were mostly limited. Homeless shelters saw an increase in demand, but there were no weather-related deaths in Los Angeles County on Friday or Saturday nights, according to officials.

As the cold continues, Southern California Gas is asking residents to conserve energy, saying demand for natural gas is currently outstripping supply. The company is tapping into its underground reserves.

"These facilities hold reserve supplies that are invaluable in helping meet the demand in times of heavy demand," Mendoza said. "Residents can do a lot to help those reserve stocks last."

He recommended bundling up, lowering thermostats by 3-5 degrees if your health permits and using less hot water. Mendoza said the last time the region’s natural gas stock was dwindling was in 2011.

The Gold Line was shut down for several hours Saturday due to a power outage in affecting more than 200 customers in South Pasadena. And a portion of the I-5 known as the Grapevine was closed for a few hours Saturday near Castaic, but was reopened in the afternoon.

Saturday's 4-inch plus snowfall made one group happy: skiers and snowboarders. At Big Bear mountain, chains were required on all vehicles this weekend.

Central valley farmers were not so pleased. Temperatures in the San Joaquin valley dropped into the 20s on Saturday night. California Citrus Mutual, a citrus growers association, reported some damage to mandarin crops Saturday night. 

One of the coldest spots in the state last night was in West Lindsey in Tulare County, where temperatures bottomed out at 21.5 degrees but mostly stayed in the mid- to high-20s - better than anticipated. Temperatures in the low 20s cause the ground to freeze. Even just a few hours of a ground freeze can cause severe damage to crops and can delay harvesting.

"We had some high cloudiness move into the area from the west, and that kept temperatures ...from dropping as low as they would have dropped," Tom Dunkley of California Citrus Mutual said in a recorded message to farmers.

Ventura county avocado grower Ed McFadden said he still worked hard most of the night. At 9:30 p.m. last night, an alarm set to alert him to freezing temperatures went off for one portion of his fields. He spent the next five hours rigging up and starting his wind and water irrigation machines to get a little warmth to the growing avocados.

He caught two hours of sleep and then was up again at 5am to recheck the crops. McFadden said his last four nights have passed this way.

McFadden, also the chariman of the California Avocado Commission, said last night was not a  "disastrous freeze," but that "there were a few cold pockets where people had some damage."

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