Frigid temperatures prompt freeze alert in Sonoma County

Dozens of homeless waited in the cold to access Santa Rosa’s warming center Wednesday evening downtown as temperatures dropped near freezing.

Catholic Charities opened the center at 301 6th St. in partnership with the city at 7 p.m. to a line of people dressed in coats or covered up in sleeping bags.

"It’s cold. It can’t get much colder," Christine Sullivan said. "This is really tough. If I cry, it’s going to be icicles."

A freeze alert is in effect from midnight Wednesday until 9 a.m. Thursday, according to Sonoma County administrator's office.

The temporary drop-in warming center will continue for the rest of the week in Santa Rosa for residents who need a place to get out of the winter weather and recharge phones or other devices.

For those who are staying warm at home, there’s still cause for concern if alternate heating sources are used.

"We know people are using wall heaters, floor heaters and fireplaces," said Paul Lowenthal with Santa Rosa Fire Department. "So making sure they’ve been serviced regularly; they’ve been checked on. The last thing we want to have is an avoidable incident."

Lowenthal also stressed the importance of working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

Additionally, Santa Rosa Fire Department reports it has already seen some weather-related accidents, trees into homes and power outages.

After the sun went down Tuesday, temperatures dropped by nearly 20 degrees and are not expected to fully rebound for several days.

Moon Valley Nursery has been fielding calls over fears of frost. Their 25 varieties of citrus trees are tucked away in a large greenhouse near Coffey Park.

"It’s important you take the time to prepare the best you can for some of the ornamentals, some of the citrus trees that are a little more susceptible to the frost," manager Ryan Cowan said. "It’s good to cover those with a cloth and that way the frost can’t drop down on them and damage the foliage."

Cowan also recommended irrigating the soil around the trees, so it can retain the heat and not freeze as easily as dried soil and dry roots.

Parts of the North Bay already saw the signs of freezing, falling in the form of sleet and hail Wednesday afternoon.

Officials said people should stay home if they can and off the roadways. It’s also suggested to check on your neighbors and fellow community members.

"I don’t like the cold, so it’s a challenge for me to always stay warm," Walter Jackson who’s homeless said. "Many homeless people could die out here with it getting down to the freezing temperatures."

Brooks Jarosz is a reporter for KTVU. Email him at and follow him on Facebook and Twitter @BrooksKTVU