SAN FRANCISCO -- California citrus growers braced for potential disaster Saturday as temperatures across the state dropped to record lows that forecasters predicted could linger until the middle of this week.
Temperatures in the San Joaquin Valley, where much of the state's nearly $1 billion citrus crop is grown, dropped into the teens overnight as growers burned fires, sprayed warm irrigation water and ran giant fans to keep cold air away from their oranges, lemons and tangerines.
"I'm hanging in there trying to survive," said grower Ron Turner, 52, of Exeter, who estimated he had lost about 20 percent of his 400-acre crop to the cold so far.
"Overall, I don't think it was a catastrophe last night," the Tulare County farmer said Saturday. "But how this thing plays out in the next few days is going to be the key."
Forecasters predicted the cold spell that began Friday would last through Monday morning for most of the state, but rural areas could see freezing temperatures until Wednesday.
A three-day freeze in December 1998 destroyed 85 percent of California's citrus crop, a loss valued at $700 million.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an emergency proclamation Friday citing "conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property ... as a result of extreme low temperatures and freezing conditions."
The state Disaster Assistance Act, which provides extra financial support for local governments, was activated, and California National Guard armories were ordered to open to the public as warming facilities, along with local fairgrounds, if needed.
Homeless shelters statewide have been filled to capacity as they worked to provide extra beds for those seeking shelter from the cold.
The state's coldest temperatures were recorded in Bridgeport on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, about 70 miles southeast of Lake Tahoe, where the mercury dropped to 19 degrees below zero, according to the National Weather Service.
Monterey experienced a low of 27 degrees, one degree colder than the previous record, recorded in 1963. Sacramento tied its record low of 22 degrees, last measured in 1949.
Even sunny Southern California got a rare dose of freezing weather. Early Saturday, thermometers registered just 8 degrees at Lancaster, 22 at Palmdale and 30 in Santa Barbara, according to the weather service. Much of Los Angeles County stayed in the low 40s.