Another bone-chilling night ahead for Southern California

Jimmy Wade tries to bundle up for a bone-chilling night on L.A.'s Skid Row.
Jimmy Wade tries to bundle up for a bone-chilling night on L.A.'s Skid Row.
Frank Stoltze/KPCC
Jimmy Wade tries to bundle up for a bone-chilling night on L.A.'s Skid Row.
"Mercedes" says "a good, warm hat and a blanket" are key to enduring a cold night on Skid Row.
Frank Stoltze/KPCC

Southern California is in for another teeth-chattering chilly night tonight with a twist:there's a good chance that gusty winds will make it seem even colder.

The National Weather Service has issued a freeze warning for much of the L.A. Basin, Orange County and the Inland Empire from 10 p.m. tonight until 8 a.m. Monday. Temperatures will range from the low 40s into the 30s and even lower.

A record low temperature of 33 degrees was recorded in the strawberry fields west of Malibu this morning. It was colder still in Woodland Hills, which recorded an early Sunday morning low of 30 degrees.

There’s also a high wind watch for the same region from late tonight through Monday night. Forecasters expect the strongest winds on Monday, with sustained winds up to 40 mph and gusts below the local passes and canyons near 60 mph. 

Most Southern California farmers are ready and well-equipped to handle the chilly weather. At the Terry Farms strawberry fields in Ventura County, wind machines are gassed up if the cold threatens to "burn" the delicate winter crop.

The same goes for citrus growers and avocado farmers looking to protect their groves, although their crops are more hardy.

Spokesman Paul Story of California Citrus Mutual, a growers' trade association, said temperatures in the low 30s haven't posed too much of of a problem. "For the navel oranges, that's not cold enough to do a measurable amount of damage," he said.

A possible exception was the smaller, more fragile mandarin orange.

"We might see a bit of damage in the mandarin crop," Story said. "I talked to our major mandarin people, and it's not significant yet."

Crops are one thing. People are something else.

On Skid Row in Los Angeles, fending off the low temperatures is a cold war that's tough to for Jimmy Wade to win. 

“I feel very cold, sir – very, very cold,” Wade told a stranger. “It ain’t never been this cold here before.”

Wade, 57, is a former merchant seaman who lost his leg when an old injury became infected.  He sits in his wheelchair at 6th and Wall Streets amid shopping carts and tents. Tents are of no use to him. With just one leg, he can't move well enough to set up one.

Another blast of cold air whistles down the sidewalk.

“I try to keep warm. I try the best I can.”

It’s easier to lose hope when you can hardly feel your toes. Wade hung his head low and talked about his age, and his disability.

“It really don’t make much difference to me because I’ve lived my life,” he said. “I done lived my life.”

Wade said most shelters have kicked him out; he doesn’t seem to get along well inside. So like a lot of other homeless people, the Louisiana native will crawls up into a doorway when the sun goes down to get out of the wind. And he hopes to collect a couple of dollars.

“I get up about five dollars to go get a little half a pint of whiskey.”

That’ll help warm him up a little and maybe get some sleep.

Down on the corner, past some guys smoking weed and across from the Midnight Mission, a woman who called herself Mercedes sits on an upside down milk carton. She draped a blanket over her knees. The Salvation Army gave it to her the night before.

“A good warm hat, and a good blanket are the key,” she said. “And you have to eat heavy – beans and burritos. That helps.”

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority provides nearly 1,500 beds through its winter shelter program, but space fills up fast during cold weather. The authority estimates more than 50,000 homeless people live in L.A. County.

Mercedes seemed uninterested in a bed. She’d spent time at the Midnight Mission but was back sleeping on the street for now.

“Normally my nose and ears are coldest, but this time it's my hands and feet,” she said.

One good thing about the cold: fewer people are out on the streets making trouble. It's too cold for them too. “It’s less dangerous because of the weather, I think.”

Still, she prefers warmer weather.

“I’m looking forward to the Spring.”