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Southland Puts Its Brand on Yule Festivities

December 26, 1987|ERIC MALNIC | Times Staff Writer

Southern Californians celebrated Christmas in many ways Friday.

Thousands chose traditional methods--brightly wrapped presents around a lighted tree, yuletide services at neighborhood churches, elaborate dinners featuring turkey with all the trimmings, family gatherings around a fireplace to ward off an Arctic blast.

But for others, it was something a little different, sometimes with a unique Southern California quality.

At Orange County beaches, despite the chilly weather, colder water and small waves, Christmas surfers showed up as usual.

The water temperature was 54, and the air temperature 55, but that was warm enough for the real surfers.

At the National Guard armory in Santa Ana, the doors were open Christmas Eve and Friday night to the homeless.

The Feedback Foundation, a nonprofit group that helps the poor, served turkey, ham, bread and juice to 62 people who spent the night at the armory on Christmas Eve. By 7 p.m. Friday, when temperatures were falling near the 40-degree mark, more than 60 people had claimed a cot.

Cold, dry temperatures kept most Southern Californians indoors during the holidays. On Christmas Eve, overnight temperatures dropped to just above freezing. That was the same forecast for Friday night.

On Thursday night, the temperature dropped to 35 degrees in El Toro. And on Friday, the mercury climbed to just 51 degrees, making El Toro one of the coldest areas in the county.

Dan Bowman, a meteorologist with WeatherData, Inc., the Wichita-based firm that provides forecasts for the Times, said the cold nights are expected to continue through the Christmas weekend, with subfreezing lows dropping to the mid-20s in some of the colder suburban communities in the Los Angeles Basin.

Daytime high temperatures should range from the mid-50s to about 60, Bowman said, but the stiff breezes that have been causing the wind chill should abate gradually, making outdoor activities generally more comfortable.

Bowman said the recent cold spell has been caused by two persistent weather systems, one a low-pressure storm centered over Arizona, the other a high-pressure dome over eastern Washington.

He said the merging winds circulating around the two systems have been pumping cold, dry air into California. As these systems continue to move east, he said, the dry air flow will be replaced by moister air from the Northern Pacific, bringing with it clouds and the possibility of rain in Southern California by Tuesday or Wednesday.

With below-freezing temperatures likely in certain areas, Orange County's farmers, especially strawberry growers, expected minor problems.

"The (National) Weather Service did predict freezing in some of the sheltered areas, but if the wind blows, it tends to make things a little warmer in the fields," said James D. Harnett, a member of the Orange County Agricultural Commission.

Strawberries are being grown on about 2,000 acres of farmland, Harnett said. Some vegetables and avocados may also be threatened, he said, but only if temperatures drop far below freezing.

The key factor is the wind, Harnett said. While it chills people, it also "makes it difficult for the frost to form on the leaves of plants."

"Sometimes with citrus, like oranges, grapefruits and lemons, you can expect some frost damage. But it has to get down below freezing, to about 28 (degrees) for a long, sustained time, to cause damage," he said.

No crop damage was reported at Murai Farms Inc. in El Toro. Only tomatoes that are durable in cold snaps are growing on a portion of the farm, a spokesman said.

At Sakioka Farms in Costa Mesa, a spokesman said they are expecting minor damage to some vegetables.

The high temperature Friday at the Los Angeles Civic Center was 53 degrees, after an overnight low of 34, just two degrees above the 32-degree record for the date set in 1879.

The mean temperature for the day--44 degrees--was 13 degrees below the normal mean of 57 for a Christmas Day in downtown Los Angeles.

The humidity during the 24-hour period ending at 4 p.m. Friday remained relatively low, ranging from 18% to 49%.

Times staff writers David Reyes and Ray Perez contributed to this story.

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