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Back-East Weather to Hang On : Homeless and Crops Suffer

December 15, 1987|STEVEN R. CHURM | Times Staff Writer

The overcoat weather that blew in over the weekend is expected to keep Orange County chilly for the next couple of days--discomforting news for most, but a delicious notion for Leo Glaubitz.

"When it gets cold, we just toss another log on the fire in the store and wait for the business to come through the door," said Glaubitz, manager of Kings Row Fireplace Shop in Westminster. "We don't mind the cold . . . in fact, we kind of like it."

But for many county residents, the cold snap is growing old--fast.

Operators of homeless shelters across the county said most beds were spoken for by dusk Monday as transients scrambled to escape a third straight night of near-freezing temperatures.

Strawberry and vegetable growers prepared for another long night, waiting and wondering if their precious crops would weather the cold. Said one anxious grower, who planned to check the mercury shortly after 2 a.m: "It's a lot of money sitting there. . . . "

Even those whose livelihood--or life--was not on the line found the cold a nuisance, an unwelcomed visitor in a land where thin skin--and lots of it showing--is the standard.

"I had to check my atlas twice today to make sure this wasn't Wisconsin," El Toro housewife Jan Simpson said.

Those in the nation's colder climes might chuckle at Southland residents' preoccupation with weather and fear of a two-blanket night. But the fact remains that those living in this region, one step removed from the desert, never really warm up to the cold even at Christmas time.

So when it hits, it becomes the talk of the town, particularly Monday after a blustery weekend of power outages and downed trees, fences and telephone poles.

And it's not over yet. Daytime temperatures today should be a degree or two warmer than Monday but still hovering in the low 60s under increasing clouds, according to WeatherData, which provides forecasts for The Times. Rain, heavy at times, is expected Wednesday, with midday temperatures reaching only the mid-50s, meteorologist Patrica Cooper said. Overnight lows should be in the 40s.

Santa Ana was the hot spot in the county Monday with a high of 60, a far cry from early Sunday when the wind-chill factor was 25 degrees.

Elsewhere on Monday, it was 58 degrees in Fullerton, 56 in Newport Beach and 55 in San Juan Capistrano and El Toro.

"We don't see a lot of improvement," Cooper said, "until the end of the week."

Hardly good news for utility companies, which were swamped by a host of wind-blown troubles over the weekend. An estimated 75,000 customers from La Habra to San Clemente were without power at some point between 6 p.m. Saturday and early Monday, utility company officials said. Customers in some corners of the county were in the dark for nearly a day as repair crews struggled to keep pace with downed power lines, torn free by 40- to 50-m.p.h. wind gusts.

At El Toro Marine Air Corps Station early Sunday, one gust was recorded at 70.2 m.p.h., a base official said.

Working Around Clock

Nearly all of the county's 26 cities reported some damage, but most of it was minor and there were no reports of major injuries. Estimates of loss in terms of dollars were sketchy late Monday, but most municipalities and utilities said the biggest cost will be in overtime paid to employees who have been in the field since Saturday night, clearing downed trees and limbs, fighting wind-whipped fires, and restoring damaged telephone and electrical lines.

In Santa Ana, public works supervisor Clint Jones and five others worked around the clock Saturday night and Sunday to clear many of the city's 400 miles of streets littered with limbs, palm fronds and downed trees. Jones' damage report was typical of many cities': clogged storm drains and several dozen parked cars with windows broken and hoods dented by falling branches.

Jones credited the city's aggressive tree-trimming program with keeping problems to a minimum. Until recently, he said, the city trimmed many of the community's 48,000 trees about once every 14 years, on the average. Now it is done every four years, with the city trimming as many as 10,000 trees a year.

"This way, the wind blows right through the trees," Jones said, "rather than knocking them over."

There was a less visible but more compelling concern on Orange County streets Monday night as many of the area's 5,000 homeless braced for another frigid night.

At the 60-bed Orange County Rescue Mission in Santa Ana, all available beds were taken, leaving attendants little choice but to offer blankets to those left outside. Normally, the one-story mission for men in the 1900 block of West Walnut Street houses about 45 men, but the cold weather has driven many of the street people indoors, the mission's director, Sunne Dae, said.

"For Southern California, this is cold, and on nights when the wind blows, it's well below freezing," Dae said. "These men are tough . . . but even the toughest succumb."

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