Freeze warning has Crossroads scrambling to care for homeless
Homeowners advised to protect plants, pets
The National Weather Service has extended the freeze warning for the Yuma area into next week, with forecasts of temperatures dipping to 32 degrees and into the mid-20s.
The freeze warning is now in effect from 5 p.m. Saturday to 9 a.m. Tuesday, said Mark O'Malley, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Phoenix.
The cold temperatures pose added hardships for the homeless, endanger pets left outdoors and could damage or kill vulnerable plants.
Crossroads Mission has been keeping an eye on the weather forecast and is taking steps to take care of the homeless.
The mission was given 100 blankets, which it was distributing Friday, as well as 50 warm coats donated by Burlington Coat Factory for men, women and children, said Barbara Rochester, mission spokeswoman.
And even though the men's shelter has been at capacity for the last couple of months, there's room for one more – “always,” said Mike Simpson, director of the shelter.
“The door is always open,” he said, so if someone gets too cold during the night, he urges them to come in.
His greatest concern is for those who have been drinking or using drugs as they may not come to the mission because of its rules about substance abuse to keep others safe. However, the mission is putting the word out on the street that “if you're cold, get here. We'll put you in a detox unit or get you a bed. We won't turn anyone away,” Simpson said.
Even though some people may not come to the mission for shelter, they come for dinner, where they will be observed by staff for signs they're suffering from the cold, Simpson said.
He's even enlisting other homeless people, such as Mike Berry, to go out to areas where the homeless are known to congregate and distribute blankets and coats to them.
As for pets, owners are advised to bring them indoors during the night.
And homeowners should take precautions to protect vulnerable plants.
Some landscape plants, like ficus trees and other non-native plants, are very susceptible to the cold, said Kurt Nolte, executive director of the Yuma County Cooperative Extension. He recommends covering plants with some kind of fabric such as burlap or even a sheet from the closet to minimize their heat loss. He also recommends watering plants, especially trees and larger shrubs that aren't feasible to cover, as the water will keep the plants a little warmer. A third recommendation is to move container plants to sheltered locations.
These measures will minimize the damage but likely there will still be some, Nolte said. His advice is to not trim or prune the damaged areas for a while as the plant may eventually send out new growth.
O'Malley said that Sunday, Monday and Tuesday mornings, the temperature is expected to be about 32 degrees in the city of Yuma, and the outlying areas could drop to the mid-20s for several hours, with the coldest time of the day between 4 and 8 a.m.
The last time it was this cold in the Yuma area was Feb. 3, 2011, when the temperature dipped to 30 degrees in the city, O'Malley said. The record low for Jan. 12 was 27 degrees in 1882, 28 degrees for Jan. 13 in 1963, 25 degrees for Jan. 14 in 2007 and 29 degrees for Jan. 15 in 1888.
“It does get below freezing in Yuma,” O'Malley said. “But not as often as other parts of Arizona.”