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December 2, 2013

Cold temps on the way to Modesto area; hard freeze warning issued

Get ready to get chilly. After weeks of mild autumn temperatures in the Modesto area, they are about to take a nose dive.

Forecasters expect a hard freeze for much of this week, ending a run of mild autumn days in the Modesto area.

Residents should protect their pets, their plants and themselves against overnight temperatures that could drop into the 20s in the San Joaquin Valley and even lower in the Sierra Nevada.

“Exposure to extreme cold can cause injury or serious health conditions,” said Dr. Karen Furst, public health officer for San Joaquin County, in a news release Monday. “Those especially at risk during cold weather include seniors, infants and other vulnerable people.”

The National Weather Service predicts a low of 30 degrees in Modesto early Wednesday, followed by lows from 25 to 30 degrees through Sunday morning. There’s a slight chance of rain in the valley today and a much greater chance of sorely needed snow in the central Sierra watersheds that supply most of the state’s water.

A cold air mass that originated in Canada will bring the chill, according to the National Weather Service.

Furst urged residents to heat their homes in safe ways – don’t bring the barbecue inside, for one thing – and to check on family and neighbors who might be at risk.

Dave Provost, manager of Morris Nursery in Riverbank, said some cold is good for roses, maples and other plants that drop their leaves in autumn. These include the fruits and nuts grown on the area’s farms, which need hundreds of “chilling hours” to prepare for next year’s bloom.

“Most of the plants we sell in the nursery don’t need any protection,” Provost said.

That’s not the case for tropical plants, such as bougainvillea and hibiscus, and evergreens such as citrus and avocado.

Provost suggests covering sensitive young trees with burlap, sheets or other fabric, using stakes to keep the cloth from touching the branches. Nurseries also sell sprays that guard against frost, and gardeners can string Christmas lights through the branches to add a little warmth.

Provost said they need to water the plants because cold air can suck moisture out of them.

Motorists can keep their windshields clear of ice by simply draping sheets or other cloth over them. Police are again warning people not to leave their cars running to warm them up, a prime opportunity for thieves.

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