The Merced area was expected to enter into its third straight day of hard-freeze temperatures overnight, according to forecasters, but the weekend could bring a slight respite – as well as a chance of snow.
Temperatures will stay out of the hard-freeze zone if the sky opens up and it rains or snows Saturday around sunrise, said Carlos Molina, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
If it does snow in the Valley, a rare occurrence, forecasters don’t expect it to so stick around for long, likely melting as it hits the ground.
Wednesday’s overnight low reached 21 degrees, and Thursday’s was expected to also reach the low 20s. The National Weather Service sends out a hard-freeze warning when temperatures are expected to fall to 27 degrees or lower.
Wednesday’s low beat the previous record of 27 from 2011. Thursday’s low would likely set another record, Molina said.
If the precipitation comes Saturday, the thermometer will creep up to the low 30s. “We could see a mixture of rain and snow,” he said. “The only problem is it’s kind of a fast-moving storm.”
Hard-freeze temperatures are expected to return Sunday and continue into early next week. The winter wind in the area is coming from western Canada, Molina said, thus bringing colder Arctic air than storms typically seen in California.
The unusually cold weather has prompted the Merced County Rescue Mission to open its warming center
Located behind the mission building at 1921 Canal St., the warming center is a tent with heaters and blankets for residents from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Officials are asking for help with donations of warm clothing and blankets to accommodate the number of people seeking shelter from the frigid air.
The D Street Homeless Shelter, 317 E. 15th St., is also open to anyone older than 18 from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Merced City Fire Chief Mike McLaughlin said people should stay indoors as much as possible. People who have to be outside for work or other reasons should wear layers of clothing, he said.
Feeling sleepy or lethargic could be signs your body is reaching a state of hypothermia, McLaughlin said. Another sign is if you stop shivering while feeling cold.
“If you stop shivering, it means your body’s no longer compensating for the cold and is shutting down,” McLaughlin said.
The chief warned against using outdoor heaters or improperly maintained furnaces, both of which could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. “It’s a product of combustion, and you won’t even know you’re being exposed,” McLaughlin said.
Residents should install carbon monoxide detectors in their homes and make sure the units have working batteries, he said. Furnaces and air ducts should be cleaned and serviced regularly to ensure safe operation, McLaughlin added.
Experts continue to recommend that residents take care to protect pets and sensitive plants, as well as water pipes, from the hard freeze.