Break out the sweaters and turn up the heater the icy-cold temperatures will keep plummeting this week, possibly bringing some snowfall to the region by Friday, meteorologists said Wednesday.
The overnight temperature in downtown Modesto hit a low of 36 degrees early Wednesday, according to the Modesto Irrigation District. Tonights low is expected to be 25 degrees, according to National Weather Service reports.
A hard freeze warning has been issued for the area until 10 a.m. Friday, said Jim Andersen, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford, with a chance of snowfall on the Valley floor by Friday evening.
This is a very atypical event, and its pretty rare that we get this cold, Andersen said. Theres probably going to be some records broken.
Despite the cold nights this week already, the Modesto Gospel Mission says its been a typical season there have been beds available for men, but all beds for women and children have been taken. Staff members there expect the beds for men to fill up once it gets colder and wetter.
The Salvation Army Modesto Citadel expected more homeless people at its 100-bed winter shelter Wednesday night, as temperatures were running several degree lower than Tuesdays.
The organization is extending its morning hours, allowing clients to stay in the shelter until 9 a.m. rather than the usual 7 a.m. departure time. That will continue on a day-by-day basis depending on the weather.
The Salvation Army has averaged about 75 people a night at its shelter, which is typical for this time of the year. It expects the shelter to reach capacity when temperatures become colder and the rain starts.
In Merced County, Linda Collins, program director for the Challenged Family Resource Center, a nonprofit, spent the day Wednesday handing out blankets and jackets to about 80 homeless people.
Its an annual tradition for the organization, which runs a thrift shop in Atwater, serving a population of people with special needs and disabilities.
All year long, we gather coats, sweaters, shoes and warm blankets, and once a year we hand those out to people, Collins said. When it starts getting cold, you see a real need. Its our responsibility as a member of the human race to pay it forward and help these people.
In addition to shielding themselves from the bitter cold, residents should protect their pets and plants from overnight temperatures.
Protect the animals by bringing them inside because theyre not used to this cold air, Andersen said.
Merced Gardens and Nursery co-owner Brad Parkinson recommended covering plants with a thermal blanket, which provides insulation. A plastic sheet can also work, Parkinson said Wednesday, but it can burn leaves that touch the plastic.
The first thing is to cover the plants if you can, but if the area is too big, you might try to keep things wet by watering, Parkinson said. The watered area will stay at 32 degrees until the water freezes. You can also put any kind of empty container over the plants, like a flower pot, bucket or trash can.
Some residents might worry about their electric bills skyrocketing as temperatures continue dropping, but there are several things people can do to control heating costs.
Gina McKay from Ace Air Inc. in Merced said residents shouldnt crank up the heater when they come home, especially if its been turned off all day.
What happens is your system tends to work harder to try to accomplish what you are setting it to do, McKay said. We wouldnt recommend turning it off completely. At least have it on a reasonable setting that wouldnt cause the unit to run harder and longer to catch up with the desired temperature.
The recommended temperature for daytime is 68 degrees, according to Pacific Gas & Electrics website.
McKay said other tips include having heaters checked annually before the cold season hits, ensuring that ducts are not loose and replacing heating systems that are more than 25 years old because theyre less energy efficient.
The good news, according to Anderson, is the cold snap might break by the weekend.
Were actually going to temporarily warm back up on Friday, Andersen said, noting that Fridays forecast calls for a high of 49 degrees and a low of 36 degrees.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine contributed to this report.