Cold weather worries Fresno Police and valley growers

FRESNO, Calif.

A flatbed tow truck had to haul off a car involved in a serious accident Tuesday night. Police say the driver hit and critically injured a pedestrian on Bullard Avenue in northeast Fresno. Rain likely played a major factor in the accident. This became the 24th weather related incident in the past 24 hours that police have responded to.

"We know it's going to be to be below freezing tonight. It's going to take all this moisture on the ground and turn it into ice. So we're asking people to slow down, provide a little extra distance between them and the car that they're following." said Lt. Burke Farrah.

Most of the rain in the valley let up around nine but then the temperatures started to plunge, prompting the Frank Ball Center in southwest Fresno to open its doors and provide warm shelter to those in need. The center will be open through Thursday night.

Grower Keith Nilmeier will also be checking the temperature constantly. A steady flow of warm water is just one of the tactics he uses to make sure his oranges don't freeze over. "The more that steam and vapor that we can get into the air, the longer it takes for the cool to cool the air in that area. Drier cools very quickly. Moisture takes a lot longer." said Nilmeier.

He's been a farmer in the valley for almost four decades and says this year's oranges are late in maturing to its full potential because of a cool summer. That mixed with earlier than expected winter-like conditions means we could see a repeat of the disastrous winter freeze of the late 1990's. "So when you couple the lateness of our maturity, and the earliness of the frost, we're at about a six week disadvantage right now." added Nilmeier.

Nilmeier is well known for placing peach pits around his trees and lighting them on fire to heat up the oranges. He says he doesn't expect to do that Tuesday night unless the temperatures drop drastically into the 20's.

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