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Frigid temperatures add insult to storm's injury

In this story: March 11, 1998
Web posted at: 4:58 a.m. EST (0958 GMT)

ATLANTA (CNN) -- A wave of arctic air sweeping in behind a late-winter blizzard left those in the Midwest and South shivering while farmers feared for their crops.

Peach farmers in South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee deployed field heaters in a desperate effort to save their crops as temperatures plummeted.

"As cold as it's going to get, we're afraid we're going to get killed," said Kemp McLeod, a fourth-generation farmer who grows peaches on 400 acres outside McBee, South Carolina.

"We've got some producers who had peaches with full bloom, and they will get wiped out," said Wesley Myers, an agriculture extension in Sumner County, Tennessee, not far from Nashville.

The low in Nashville Tuesday was 24, 49 degrees below Sunday's high. Cecil Whaley of Tennessee's Emergency Management Agency said, "We've had such a warm winter, our fruit trees have blossomed too early." . "I had hoped El Nino would keep the cool weather to the north, but as unpredictable as that's been, I guess it would be foolish to predict," said Al Pearson, a central Georgia peach grower and head of the state's Peach Commission.

cherry tree
Cheery trees in michigan are in danger

Growers in Florida feared that the cold would reach them and damage their blueberry, persimmons, grape and blackberry crops. The wind chill was expected to take temperatures as low as 20 degrees Tuesday night.

Florida's orange growers also braced for the worst should frost arrive, with just half the harvest complete. Farmers prepared to douse their orchards with water to try to insulate the fruit from the cold.

Farmers in the Midwest said the unusually warm winter have caused their fruit trees to bud, making them especially vulnerable if temperatures reached single digits. In Michigan, where 75 percent of the nation's cherries are produced, farmers fear not only for their crops, but for the trees as well.

25 deaths blamed on storms

The cold follows a storm system that produced flooding in the Southeast, record rainfall in the Northeast and a weekend blizzard across the Plains and Midwest.

Record low temperatures Tuesday included 9 below zero at Hastings, Nebraska, and 13 above at Harrison, Arkansas. In Minot, North Dakota, the temperature reached 18 below and in the southern Minnesota town of Worthington, the wind chill was 41 below.

At least 15 deaths are blamed on the Midwest storm, which by Tuesday had dwindled to snow showers over the Ohio Valley and lower Great Lakes. In addition, at least 10 deaths were blamed on the weekend of lightning, tornadoes and floods across the South.

In the Plains, residents dug out from under the weekend snowstorm that left many rural roads impassable. A 275-mile section of Interstate 80 between Omaha and Lincoln in Nebraska was reopened, but motorists were warned about drifting snow.

Nebraska hospitals reported dozens of emergencies involving heart problems as residents attempted to shovel sidewalks and driveways in frigid temperatures. Another three inches of snow was expected to fall Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Kansas Gov. Bill Graves declared a state of disaster for 13 counties in the northeast part of the state.

Stranded cars block plows in Indiana

Motorists abandoned their vehicles on this highway in Gary, Indiana

About 120,000 customers were still without power Tuesday night in northern Illinois and Indiana. On Monday, roughly 440,000 homes and businesses were blacked out in those states and Wisconsin when wind knocked down power lines weighted with ice and snow.

Eighteen inches of snow and drifts formed by winds of 40 mph brought highways to a standstill in northern Indiana. The National Guard used helicopters to search for stranded motorists and fly meals to shelters.

Another 1,700 people -- many of them travelers -- stayed in shelters Tuesday at National Guard armories, churches and fire stations in Indiana.

"Several counties have declared snow emergencies, meaning people should stay off the roads," Indiana Emergency Management spokesman Alden Taylor said. "There are so many cars stranded on the roads, it's hard for plows to get through."

A truck carrying musical instruments belonging to the San Francisco Symphony slid into a ditch near Des Moines, Iowa, jeopardizing a Tuesday concert in Chicago. The performance was saved when Chicago Symphony players volunteered their instruments.

broken dam
This earthen dam gave way in Barnesville, Georgia

In Cleveland, a Delta Air Lines jet skidded off a runway at snowy Cleveland Hopkins International Airport early Tuesday, but none of the 146 passengers and crew on board were hurt.

5,000 evacuated in Albany, Georgia

A state of emergency was still in effect for the southern half of Alabama, which was hit by torrential rains and heavy flooding over the weekend. National Guard troops were laying sandbags and aiding the 2,000 evacuated residents of Elba, about 60 miles south of Montgomery, as workers pumped water from the flooded streets.

"There's no rain, and that's good news," Alabama Emergency Management Agency spokesman Scott Adcock said.

But as the water receded in Elba, 5,000 people in Albany, Georgia, were evacuated as the Flint River overflowed its banks.

Correspondents Michael Collins and Jeff Flock and Reuters contributed to this report.


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