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ATLANTA (AP) — Brutal, record-breaking cold descended on the East and South, sending the mercury plummeting Tuesday into the single digits and teens from Boston, New York and Washington to Atlanta, Nashville and Birmingham — places where many people have almost no idea how to deal with freezing weather.
The morning weather map for the eastern half of the U.S. looked like an algebra worksheet — lots of small, negative numbers. In fact, the Midwest and the East were colder than much of Antarctica.
The deep freeze started in the Midwest over the weekend and spread east, blanketing about half of the country. In New York City, the high was expected to be 10; in Boston, around 18.
Birmingham, Ala., dipped to a low of 7. In Atlanta, which saw a record low of 6 degrees, fountains were frozen over, pipes burst and cars wouldn’t start.
“This is severely cold for these parts,” said Brian Lynn, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Peachtree City, Ga. “Single digits are a rare event.”
Farther south in Pensacola, Fla., a Gulf Coast city better known for its white sand beaches than frost, streets normally filled with joggers, bikers and people walking dogs were deserted early Tuesday as temperatures remained in the teens after sunrise. Monica Anderson and Tommy Howard jumped up and down and blew on their hands while they waited for a bus, struggling to stay warm.
Anderson said she couldn’t it recall it ever being so cold.
“I’m not used to it. It is best just to stay inside until it gets better,” said Anderson, who had to get out for early morning appointment with her doctor.
A sign on a bank near the bus stop flashed 19 degrees at around 8 a.m. Patches of ice sparkled in parking lots where puddles froze overnight.
Farmers were worried about their crops.
Diane Cordeau of Kai-Kai Farm in Indiantown, Fla., about 90 miles north of Miami, had to pick her squash and tomatoes Monday to beat the freeze but said her leafy vegetables, such as kale, will be sweeter and taste better because of the cold.
“I’m the queen of lettuce around here, so the colder the better,” said Cordeau, whose farm serves high-end restaurants that request specific produce or organic vegetables.
In the East, a blizzard smothered western New York with up to 18 inches of snow and wind gusts of up to 50 mph. As much as 3 feet of snow could fall there by the time the storm eases Wednesday.
Temperatures in parts of West Virginia hit lows not seen for 25 years, while the cold in Virginia broke records that had stood since the late 1950s.