As the near record-breaking cold siege of the last few days appeared to be easing in Southern California on Monday, Los Angeles city officials extended emergency shelter to the homeless for another 48 hours because of a threat of rain.
Bob Vilmur, the city's homeless projects coordinator, said city officials and Mayor Tom Bradley's office agreed to keep the emergency shelters open until Wednesday morning after the National Weather Service said that the oncoming storm may bring as much as half an inch of rain to the Los Angeles Basin by tonight.
The Weather Service added that the local mountains will get some snow from the frontal system, which, after passing through the area overnight, will be followed by moist, unstable air that could trigger showers through Wednesday.
"There was a consensus to proceed with this," Vilmur said in explaining the city's decision affecting the homeless.
Under the emergency declaration, approved last week by the City Council for the Christmas holiday weekend, temporary shelters were set up in Elysian Park, Venice, Wilmington and Pacoima to take in those people needing shelter from the chilly temperatures, which reached as low as 35 degrees at the Civic Center over the weekend, tying a record set before the turn of the century.
In addition, emergency vouchers for hotel and motel rooms were handed out, Vilmur said.
Although forecasters said the storm should be accompanied by slightly warmer temperatures, it was the threat of rain that prompted city officials to keep the emergency shelters open.
"People, even if they are homeless, got to have a place to stay out of the rain," one city official said.
Overall, close to 1,000 people a night have been aided by the city plan, officials said.
Los Angeles city and county officials were not the only ones to swing into action because of the cold snap, which sent the thermometer plunging into the 20s in some inland areas at night.
Variety of Remedies
Using helicopters, heaters and warm water, Southern California growers worked round the clock to save citrus and avocado groves susceptible to freezing.
But it was too early to assess the extent of the damage, spokesmen for several growers' groups said Monday.
Forecasters said most of the rain from the approaching front--an offshoot of a Pacific storm centered off the coast of Washington--should hit this afternoon. And there were early indications of the storm's punch as it moved southward Monday.
The airport in Santa Barbara received .55 of an inch of rain Monday and at Casmalia, also in Santa Barbara County, almost an inch of rain was reported. Woodland Hills and Paso Robles both reported .10 of an inch.
Snow on Grapevine
And the California Highway Patrol reported that snow flurries fell along Interstate 5 on the Grapevine for a time early Monday afternoon. But it was not enough to interrupt traffic on the major artery connecting Los Angeles with Bakersfield.
Daytime highs today should be in the 50s, with overnight lows in the mid- to low-40s in the Los Angeles area, said meteorologist Patricia Cooper of WeatherData Inc., which provides forecasts for The Times. But overnight temperatures in Riverside, for example, may dip below freezing tonight, she said.
Monday's high at the Civic Center reached 58, nine degrees below normal for this date. The overnight low was 42.
Relative humidity ranged from 23% to 68%.
Forecasters said New Year's Day should dawn sunny and slightly warmer, with highs in the mid- to upper 50s.