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California prepares for cold snap

| Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, 9:22 p.m.
Bundled up against the elements, a boy catches a football as frigid, gusting winds blow sand in drifts across a boardwalk on a nearly-deserted beach near the pier at Santa Monica, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. Strawberry growers are covering their crops while San Diego zookeepers are turning on heaters for the chimpanzees as Southern California braces for a cold snap expected to drop temperatures to a six-year low. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

SAN DIEGO — Zookeepers turned up the heat for chimpanzees and strawberry growers covered their crops as Californians braced on Friday for three days of freezing temperatures.

The cold snap is expected to last through the weekend.

Morning temperatures fell into the 20s and 30s in many areas, and much lower in the mountains. A low of 12 degrees was recorded in the Big Bear mountain resort east of Los Angeles.

In Sonoma County, homeless shelters started handing out extra warm clothes to protect people from below-freezing overnight temperatures.

Central Valley citrus growers watched as temperatures dipped into the 20s on Friday. Napa, in wine country, and Sacramento, farther north, both recorded lows of 27.

High temperatures in the Central Valley during the weekend were forecast for 50 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

In the south, forecasters warned that a low pressure trough sinking over San Diego County and parts of neighboring Orange County could keep nightly temperatures below the freezing point in coastal areas, the low deserts and inland valleys, threatening orange and avocado orchards and other sensitive plants. The coldest nights were expected to hit on Friday and Saturday.

Farmers prepared to pull out giant fans to circulate the air and keep it from settling on their citrus trees, said Eric Larson of the San Diego County Farm Bureau.

“These guys are going to be up all night watching thermometers,” Larson said.

Workers at SeaWorld in San Diego planned to crank up the heat for their macaws, toucans and parrots. San Diego zookeepers were heating rooms for chimpanzees, apes and other tropical animals.

Authorities on Friday reopened a 40-mile stretch of Interstate 5 north of Los Angeles — some 17 hours after snow shut the highway and forced hundreds of truckers to spend the cold night in their rigs.

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