Prepare for Freeze Emergencies
California may experience freeze conditions at any time during the winter. The most recent severe experience was in January 2007 and affected several areas of California. There were areas receiving snow that rarely experience this weather pattern such as the cities of San Bernardino, Malibu and West Los Angeles. The snow level dropped close to sea level during this cold weather period. In addition to this rare snowfall, there were periods without precipitation and temperature records were set throughout California with lows of 36 in downtown Los Angeles, 35 in San Diego, and 21 in the central valley city of Los Banos.
The San Joaquin Valley is the largest citrus producing region in the United States, and the production of these fruits was adversely affected by the freezing weather. The cold-sensitive agriculture that grow in this area such as oranges, lemons, avocados, and flowers were greatly damaged due to the cold and an estimated 75% of the nation's citrus crop had been destroyed during this freeze event.
A comprehensive contingency plan is important in protecting life and property. The California Emergency Management Agency Freeze Contingency Plan is available for review.
Winterize Your Home
Take the time now to get your home ready for the winter season by following these tips:
- Have your heating system checked by a professional annually. This will ensure that your system is working safely and efficiently which, in turn, will save you money. If you heat by wood, clean your fireplace or stove. Have your chimney flue checked for any buildup of creosote and then cleaned to lessen the risk of fire.
- Make sure your home is properly insulated. If necessary, insulate walls and attic. This will help you to conserve energy and reduce your home's power demands for heat.
- Caulk and weather-strip doors and windowsills to keep cold air out.
- Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside. This will provide an extra layer of insulation, keeping more cold air out.
- Inspect and flush your water heater.
- Clean gutters. Leaves and other debris will hamper drainage.
- Replace batteries of smoke, heat and carbon monoxide detectors. If you did not do it when you set the clocks back, do it now.
- To keep pipes from freezing:
- Wrap pipes in insulation or layers of old newspapers
- Cover the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture
- Let faucets drip a little to avoid freezing
- Know how to shut off water valves
Protecting Water Pipes
To prevent the mess and aggravation of frozen water pipes, protect your home, apartment or business by following the simple steps below.
Before Cold Weather
- Locate and insulate pipes most susceptible to freezing, typically those near outer walls, in crawl spaces or in the attic.
- Wrap pipes with heat tape (UL approved).
- Seal any leaks that allow cold air inside where pipes are located.
- Disconnect garden hoses and shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the short span of pipe just inside the house.
When It's Cold
- Let hot and cold water trickle at night from a faucet on an outside wall.
- Open cabinet doors to allow more heat to get to un-insulated pipes under a sink or appliance near an outer wall.
- Make sure heat is left on and set no lower than 55 degrees.
- If you plan to be away: (1) Have someone check your house daily to make sure the heat is still on to prevent freezing, or (2) drain and shut off the water system (except indoor sprinkler systems).
If Pipes Freeze
- Make sure you and your family knows how to shut off the water, in case pipes burst. Stopping the water flow minimize the damage to your home. Call a plumber and contact your insurance agent.
- Never try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch.
- Always be careful of the potential for electric shock in and around standing water.
FEMA Winter Hazards
National Weather Service Cold Weather Tips