A cold front packing northerly winds gusting to more than 60 m.p.h. moved into Southern California Saturday, threatening crops, triggering power outages and causing minor rock slides in canyons and dust storms in desert areas.
"It will stay colder than normal through the middle of the week," said Dan Bowman, a forecaster with WeatherData, a private weather service.
The cold, dry winds roaring down from Canada produced a freeze warning for all Southern California agriculture, said the National Weather Service's agricultural office at Riverside.
Weather Service spokesman Barry Satchwell said that when the winds die in the early morning, temperatures can get "real cold, real fast." Temperatures in some agricultural areas could drop to the mid-20s, affecting lettuce, citrus, avocados and other crops, the Weather Service said.
It wasn't quite that cold in San Diego Saturday night, but near-freezing evening temperatures caused city officials to open the doors to emergency shelters to help the homeless keep warm. San Diego Mayor Maureen O'Connor said that a municipal gym in Balboa Park would be open through the weekend to keep at least 350 indigents out of the cold. In addition, housing for street people was opened up at the student union at Palomar College in San Marcos and the St. Vincent de Paul Joan Kroc Center.
Forecasters said that even colder temperatures, possibly in the 20s, were in store for the San Diego area tonight.
In Los Angeles, a spokesperson for Mayor Tom Bradley's office said Saturday night that no similar emergency measures would be taken until the Civic Center temperature dipped below 40 degrees. The forecast low for Saturday night was 45.
The high winds caused the weather service Saturday to issue a small craft advisory from Point Conception to Dana Point due to local gusts of 30 to 40 knots and choppy seas. Gale warnings were issued in the outer water areas from Point Conception to Santa Rosa Island with gusts reaching 45 knots Saturday night.
On a positive note, the winds pushed away much of the heavy coastal fog that had blanketed Los Angeles International Airport and John Wayne Airport in Orange County Friday, and brilliant blue skies prevailed Saturday in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
Northerly winds were clocked at between 59 and 64 m.p.h. at the sheriff's helicopter landing pad in Rialto in the San Bernardino Valley and 65 m.p.h. at Laguna Peak above Point Mugu in Ventura County.
The wind gusts, up to 50 m.p.h., whipped sand and dust in desert areas, limiting visibility and making travel by campers difficult.
Some Without Power
About 7,500 customers in Malibu and the Simi Valley were without power at one time or another from Friday night and through Saturday because of the high winds, said Charles Beal, a spokesman for Southern California Edison.
Affected were several signal lights along the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, causing some minor snarls and forcing the California Highway Patrol to direct weekend traffic.
The high winds also caused a rock slide near a Malibu Canyon Road tunnel, but the key link between the San Fernando Valley and the coast stayed open, a county roads spokesman said.
In Glendale, high winds knocked out power in wide areas of the city Saturday night, blacking out traffic lights and playing havoc with large holiday crowds at some of the city's shopping areas.
Occasional fast-moving clouds were carried through the area by the winds, producing brief surprise showers early Saturday evening in the El Monte area. "It was a little blow-off from the clouds moving over the mountains," a National Weather Service official said.
Saturday's high temperature was 67, just one degree below normal for this day. The low Saturday night was expected to dip to 45, according to WeatherData forecaster Bowman, still a far cry from the record low of 34 set in 1978. Lows in the 30s, however, could be expected in the inland valleys, he added.
With less wind today, he said, it could be expected to get colder--with a 60- to 65-degree range forecast, dropping to near 40 tonight in the Los Angeles area and below freezing in the inland valleys.