Survival time: Auburn homeless brace for Arctic cold front

Pallets, heaters, sleeping bags, dogs provide warmth, protection for some
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Terri Hanaway was homeless Wednesday and expecting to spend a cold night outdoors under a tarp in a sleeping bag.

Hanaway, 40, said that she had been stuck for funds last winter and spent all of it outside in the Auburn area, camping in a number of locations.

Hanaway is one of dozens of homeless people in the area who are bracing for even colder temperatures in the coming week.

For them, the onset of darkness signals a move into survival mode.

For Hanaway, that means using candles or a propane-fueled space heater to keep warm as temperatures plummet.

“I’ll be sleeping out here tonight,” Hanaway said. “It’s freezing to camp and not easy. We lost a guy in Grass Valley on Christmas Day. is predicting waves of frigid air moving southward across North America from the North Pole in the next week – the result of a phenomenon known as sudden stratospheric warming in the Arctic during the past few days. That often forces cold air to build in the lowest layer of the atmosphere then to drive southward. meteorologist Dave Samuhel said Wednesday that the cold pattern should be sticking in Northern California through early next week. While precipitation isn’t expected to be high, Samuhel said the Auburn area could experience a dusting of snow.

At the Sacramento office of the U.S. Weather Service, meteorologist Johnnie Powell said as much as an inch of snow could fall as low as 2,000 feet overnight Wednesday. Downtown Auburn is at 1,234 feet. Lows for Auburn were expected to hover in the upper 30s overnight and then drop to around 32 degrees in the morning, he said.

The Tahoe Basin was expected to get 3 to 6 inches of snow, with lows of 9 to 14 degrees.

For many homeless people, home at night is a makeshift bed of carpet scraps placed on a wooden pallet on top of a tarp that keeps moisture from rising out of the ground, Hanaway said.

Hanaway said just the act of sleeping in the cold is hard and she ended up taking sleeping pills to fight through the cold.

“It helped me get through but now I’m being put in an outpatient program to help me,” she said.

Ray Teel, 39, said that while the primary purpose of the big dog he has is to keep raccoons at bay in the winter and bears away from his campsite in the summer, the canine sleeps in his sleeping bag with him on cold winter nights for warmth.

A nearby McDonald’s or Burger King provides warmth during the day. For some, who can remain clean and sober, prove they are from Placer County and not on Megan’s List, and show they have been tested for tuberculosis, the Gathering Inn will provide a place to stay for the night.

Tim Murrin, 59, has been homeless since just before Christmas after having to park the van he had lived in for the past year. Murrin said he was unable to pay an overdue $1,100 fine from a red-light violation in Marysville and that moved him into seeking government benefits.

Murrin said he was able to find a place to stay with the Gathering Inn, a consortium of churches that provide shelter, food and other resources to the homeless.

But out in the cold, Murrin said that just walking seemed to ward off the chills.

Over the coming two weeks, temperatures should continue to drop, Accuweather is projecting.

Homeless man Rick Horton Ellis, 54, had parked his two sleeping bags in a safe spot. He said he was ready for whatever winter was going to throw at him and Auburn’s other homeless in the cold days to come.

“I have my sleeping bag and tarp,” Ellis said. “If it rains, you’re fine. I’ll make it.”