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The scold in Mother Nature's cold: It's winter! Wear a coat! (VIDEO)

Temperatures plummeted up and down Eastern US, making it feel, at last, like winter. But this brush with Arctic cold won't last long at all. 

By Ron SchererStaff writer / January 4, 2012

Pedestrians walking along the water bundle up against the cold weather in New York, Wednesday.

Seth Wenig/AP


New York

Mother Nature poured bitter Arctic temperatures into the eastern third of the nation Wednesday, reminding people from Maine to Florida that they’ll need their parkas this winter after all.

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According to, temperatures ranged from minus 17 degrees in Saranac Lake, N.Y., to 13 degrees in New York City to 32 degrees in Disneyland. The cold snap stretched as far south as Miami, where residents awoke to 43-degree temperatures.

Aside from lots of people needing to bundle up, though, it appears the East’s first brush with ice-box-like temperatures has not caused any major problems.

So far, it appears the fruit and vegetable crops in Florida have come through without any major damage that might cause food prices to soar, as happened following two damaging cold snaps in December of 2010. And, even though many people have had to crank up their thermostats, the heating-oil industry says there does not appear to be any supply-related hiccups.

“The reason this is getting attention is because it’s been so mild so far this winter,” says Dale Mohler, a meteorologist at in State College, Pa. “If this were a normal winter, you wouldn’t be thinking twice about this.”

In fact, Mr. Mohler says, there is no need to cancel the trip to Florida because the cold weather is expected to dissipate in the next day or two. By Thursday afternoon, visitors to Disneyland will be walking around in T-shirts, and by Friday it could be back to 80 degrees in Miami.

“This cold weather is just a brief interlude,” he says, noting that even in New York the thermometer will read 50 degrees by the weekend.

The sub-freezing temperatures in Florida apparently did not do much damage to the nation’s winter vegetable crop or the citrus groves. According to Lisa Lochridge, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association in Maitland, there was only “patchy” damage from frost. She says a few temperature-sensitive varieties, such as snap beans, appear to have been damaged. But, the tomato, strawberry, and citrus crops seem to have survived.

“By this time last year we had already had two significant freezes from December,” she says. To top it off, cold weather extended into Mexico, damaging the vegetable crop there. In Yuma, Ariz., the lettuce crop was badly damaged by two successive days of temperatures below 20 degrees. By the spring, vegetable prices had risen by 50 percent and food prices as a whole had risen at their fastest pace since 1974.


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