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Subfreezing weather threatens Fla. crops

COLUMBIA, South Carolina — Subfreezing temperatures across the South have Florida farmers worried that strawberry, tomato and other crops could be destroyed, with temperatures in even usually balmy Miami only in the 50s on Tuesday.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist signed an executive order that gives the state's Division of Emergency Management and other agencies the authority to provide growers with assistance. Throughout central and south Florida, farmers are trying to salvage millions of dollars worth of citrus and vegetable crops, spraying them in protective layers of ice and covering them in plastic.

Forecasters say the Southern deep freeze will last through the weekend, likely breaking records for continuous cold temperatures in many parts of Florida and elsewhere.

The eastern U.S. was not only dealing with subfreezing temperatures, but parts of the New England states were under record snowfall. In Burlington, Vt., a storm dumped more than 33 inches, breaking a single-storm record of nearly 30 inches set in 1969.

In northeast Ohio, forecasters say snow will continue to fall in areas that already have 2 feet or more on the ground. The National Weather Service said areas in the region's ''snow belt" could receive up to 8 more inches of lake-effect snow on Tuesday.

Four deaths were blamed on the cold in Tennessee.

The duration of the cold snap is unusual, especially in the South, where the weather is typically chilly for just a day or two before temperatures rebound into the 50s.

Waves of Arctic air pushed into central Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. Many Southern homes aren't built to handle that type of cold, with uninsulated pipes and heat pumps that will have to run all the time just to keep things barely comfortable.

Vacationing college students from Ohio, Tara McCourry and Stephen McFarren, walked hand-in-hand along picturesque Pensacola Beach on Tuesday, among the few people braving the 27-degree wind chill. The couple watched pelicans, admired seashells and adjusted their hats and gloves as they buffered themselves against the wind.

"This is my first time in Florida and Florida is not supposed to be cold like this," McCourry said.

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