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Cold snap leaves Deep South in a deep freeze

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NEW: Friday night temps in South to be season's coldest
NEW: Hard freeze forecast for Ala., Ark., Fla., and Va.
• NEW: Thursday night freeze hit Texas, La., Ala, S.C. and Fla.
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(CNN) -- Residents of the Deep South awoke to a powerful blast of cold weather on Friday, which brought the lowest temperatures of the season to many parts of the United States.

A hard freeze gripped the Southeast in much of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina and Florida, said CNN meteorologist Chad Myers.

The bone-chilling temperatures are expected to continue into Friday night and Saturday morning all the way to within a few miles of northern Florida's beaches.

The beaches themselves could see 32-degree temperatures by Saturday morning, the National Weather Service said.

"Friday will be the coldest night of the season for all the areas from Alabama through Arkansas down into Florida and as far north as Virginia," Myers said.

"The wind-chill effect won't be as cold as Thursday, but the air temperature will be colder because the air is drier," Myers said. "It'll be like living in a cold desert."

The temperature dropped 41 degrees from Wednesday night to Thursday night in Tallahassee, Florida. Citrus growers and other agricultural interests were being warned to protect their crops, livestock and equipment from the cold.

Myers predicted the intense cold won't last long, and more seasonable temperatures will return by Sunday or Monday.

Temperatures dropped 25 degrees Thursday in such places as Bowling Green, Kentucky, and Huntsville, Alabama, and 30 degrees in Albany, Georgia.

A plunge to 13 degrees only added to the misery in St. Louis, Missouri, where tens of thousands are still without power after an ice storm a week ago. (Watch how cold is affecting efforts to restore power Video)

Crews likely would be working into Friday and perhaps Saturday to restore power in eastern Missouri and western Illinois, said Susan Gallagher, a spokeswoman for electric utility Ameren Corp. (Full story)

The Great Lakes region felt the effects of the front early Thursday, with morning temperatures near zero in many places.

High wind took another 20 degrees off those readings, so the temperature in Duluth, Minnesota, felt like 28 degrees below zero.

Snow was forecast south of the Great Lakes, where some areas could get as much as 2 feet of snow from blinding lake-effect snowstorms.

CNN's Chad Myers and Dave Hennen contributed to this report.

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