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October 2, 2014

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California dodges crop damage in cold snap

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Associated Press

Fiona Chiang shields her face from blowing sand as she walks north on Carlsbad Boulevard in Carlsbad, Calif., on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013.

LOS ANGELES — Some of California's hottest spots went from sweltering to shivering Sunday as early morning temperatures plunged, leaving even polar bears at the San Diego Zoo seeking shelter. But growers in the Central Valley were relieved to learn most orange and lemon crops probably avoided significant damage for another night despite temperatures in the high 20s.

"We were just a little bit colder, by a degree or two," said spokesman Paul Story of California Citrus Mutual, a growers' trade association. "For the navel oranges, that's not cold enough to do a measurable amount of damage."

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."

It was the third night of successful crop protection for farmers, who run wind machines and water to protect their fruit, but growers weren't done yet.

"We've got at least one more night of cold temperatures," Story said.

Two of the hottest spots in the Los Angeles area — the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys — saw sub-freezing predawn temperatures Sunday.

Famously torrid Woodland Hills, which usually makes news for its triple-digit temperatures, had an overnight low of 30 degrees. That was warm compared to Lancaster in north Los Angeles County, which hit 15 degrees.

Temperatures reached the low 20s in the San Francisco Bay area.

In the East Bay city of Walnut Creek, the National Weather Service reported an overnight low of 23 degrees, while in the Santa Clara County community of Scotts Valley, the temperature dropped to 26.

Forecasters said even with a day of sunshine, temperatures across the Bay Area were expected to get no higher than the low 50s Sunday.

Meanwhile, in the Sierra Nevada, temperatures plunged below zero overnight, and after a day in the 20s, another subzero night is expected.

In San Diego, zookeepers offered extra heat and shelter for some animals, including polar bears. While the bears tolerate frigid climes, the zoo animals lack the fat layers that naturally occur in the wild to protect them from the cold, so zookeepers offer them "warming apparatuses," zoo spokeswoman Jenny Mehlow said.

"The animals do take this in stride because they're wearing a nice, warm fur coat," she said.

The cold air was flowing east into neighboring Arizona, where metropolitan Phoenix was approaching the halfway point in a four-day cold snap that's expected to mark the coolest stretch the area has seen since 1988. Temperatures on Saturday night dipped to 30 degrees at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and 25 degrees.

Low temperatures across Arizona on Saturday night included 23 at Tucson International Airport and 7 below in Flagstaff.

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