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Frosty, frozen and frigid: Cold snap grips the U.S.

By Mike Pearson, For CNN
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It's cold outside!
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: At least one death is attributed to the cold
  • The Florida citrus crop escapes damage in the season's first cold snap
  • Another round of freezing temperatures is forecast for overnight

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(CNN) -- Cold weather frosting much of the country spared Florida's citrus crop Tuesday, but more near-record lows expected overnight will pose another challenge.

"We came through last night in pretty good shape," said Andrew Meadows, a spokesman for Florida Citrus Mutual. "We had some reports of mid-20s scattered across the citrus belt but it wasn't for any duration."

Fort Lauderdale recorded its lowest temperature on record for December 7, dropping to 40 degrees Tuesday morning. The old record was 42, set in 1841.

The National Weather Service issued hard freeze warnings for Tuesday night into Wednesday morning for much of the Florida panhandle, with freeze warnings and watches extending as far south as Hollywood. Parts of Alabama and Georgia were also under a freeze warning.

Meanwhile, parts of North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Vermont were under winter weather warnings Tuesday for additional snow. Some areas have already received as much as a foot of snow.

At least one death was blamed on the cold in South Carolina.

In Marion County, the coroner said Tuesday that a 47-year-old man found dead Monday outside a home in Mullins apparently died of hypothermia.

The unusually early cold weather is the result of a blocking pattern over the Atlantic Ocean that is helping to allow freezing air from Canada to flow into the eastern half of the country, said CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano.

"Basically, the cold weather pattern is going to remain for the next two weeks," he said. "There will be a couple of days where it will warm up before we get the next surge of cold."

The sprawling system has dumped snow from Minnesota east to Virginia, with more expected Tuesday and Wednesday.

While nothing as drastic as snow is forecast for Florida, the prospect of another near-freezing night had Salvation Army officials in Fort Lauderdale preparing for twice as many homeless people to make use of their shelter.

"The first cold night, not so many come in," said Sally Gress, director of development for the Salvation Army office in Fort Lauderdale. "We're expecting about 100 as people realize how cold it is. It's cold and it's getting colder."

Cold snap threatens Florida farms
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In Coral Springs on Florida's west coast, Michigan resident Rob Brown was reveling in what he considered to be warm weather as he worked in a long-sleeved T-shirt at the family Christmas tree stand. For the past 15 years, Brown's family has cut trees from their farm in Greenville, Michigan, to sell in south Florida.

"You work, you don't break a sweat," he said of the weather.

But his customers aren't so fond of the conditions, he said.

"The colder weather definitely does put them more in the Christmas spirit, but I think it's too cold for them. They wake up in the morning and it's 35 degrees and they think it's the end of the world," he said.

Although the chilly temperatures left the Deep South shivering, the upper Plains states were bearing the brunt of the cold snap.

Overnight lows in parts of Montana and North Dakota dipped into negative territory Tuesday morning, and they bottomed out in the teens across broad areas of the Upper Midwest.

"We had above-normal temperatures for much of the fall and I think this is the first really good winter outbreak of the year and people just aren't really used to it," according to Brian Korty of the National Weather Service, who said there may be a silver lining to the early cold.

"Usually when you get a very cold December across the eastern part of the country, usually the pattern flips and very often you will see a warm January and February."

CNN Radio's Greg Black and CNN's Ed Payne contributed to this report

 
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