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Recent Chill Is Merely a False Front

Weather: Forecasters say this winter will be warmer than normal. So far, cold snap has not harmed crops.


The cold snap that has settled over Ventura County may just be a tease, say weather forecasters, who predict a warmer than normal winter and rainfall just below average.

Overnight temperatures this week will hover in the mid-30s for some areas through Friday, National Weather Service meteorologists say. But that doesn't mean an unusually frigid winter is ahead.

It's not so much the cold temperatures but the sudden shift that people are noticing as they scurry for scarves and mittens, said Stuart Seto, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. Residents are still used to shorts-and-T-shirt weather, so this week's low numbers, which haven't broken any records, seem chillingly cold.

"We do get acclimatized," Seto said. "Once we get into January and we get three or four days of cold in a row, people will know it is cold but it won't seem so dramatic."

Today and Wednesday should top out at around 64 degrees, a few degrees cooler than earlier in the week. But cloud cover, which holds in warm air, will raise temperatures again slightly toward the weekend.

Temperatures didn't drop low enough and long enough to damage avocados, lemons and strawberries and probably won't until closer to Christmas, said Rex Laird, executive director of the Ventura County Farm Bureau. Crop damage happens when the mercury dips below 30 degrees for more than a few hours--which hasn't happened in this cold spell.

Growers also get concerned when rainfall levels are low and the Santa Ana winds sap moisture out of the air, which has been the case in Ventura County recently, Laird said. That, along with the cold, made growers a little jumpy over the weekend, said Laird, but there were no reports of damaged crops.

Bill Bartels, an orange grower in Fillmore, said that as long as temperatures don't get too low, the cold is fine with him, and probably good for his 30 acres of trees because it "hardens" them for the winter and brings more color to the oranges.

"It slows the trees down a bit, and the trees that get exposed to cold get heartier," the farmer said.

The cold may have had more of an effect on merchants, who report a run on winter accessories and warm comfort drinks.

"As soon as the weather changed we sold more scarves and gloves," said Charles Erving, assistant manager of London Fog's outlet store in Camarillo.

Jessica Wong, who works at Starbucks on Victoria Avenue in Ventura, said more customers are turning from frozen drinks popular during summer to hot chocolate and straight-up hot coffee.

Furnace dealers have also seen a spike in sales as people turn their furnaces on for the first time and find problems. Sandi Wells, information officer for the Ventura County Fire Department, cautioned that homeowners should have furnaces checked by an expert before starting them up.

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