Chilling air from Canada set low-temperature records across the Southeast on Thursday, scaring farmers in Florida's citrus belt but sparing their crops, while a new storm hit the Midwest with snow and wind gusts up to 80 m.p.h.
At least six deaths were blamed on the bad weather, including that of a 90-year-old woman who froze to death in Sunrise, Mo., on Thursday after locking herself out of her house.
Records for cold were set Thursday in South Carolina, Mississippi and Florida. Temperatures in Alabama hit the single digits.
By Thursday afternoon, snow spread from Kansas north to Canada and east into Michigan, said Bill Sammler, a meteorologist at the National Severe Storms Forecast Center in Kansas City, Mo.
'Worst Yet to Come'
"Stay off the roads," said Wally Eaton, a state patrol dispatcher in Thief River Falls, Minn. "It looks like the worst is yet to come."
U.S. 2 between Crookston and East Grand Forks, Minn., was closed because of blowing snow, and state Highway 11 near Roseau was shut down.
The Wisconsin State Patrol reported that three semi-trailer trucks jackknifed on Interstate 94 in Racine and Kenosha counties and that 30 cars were involved in accidents along the same stretch. No major injuries were reported in those accidents, but two persons were killed in a collision on a snow-covered highway near Fond du Lac.
In southwestern North Dakota, snow drifts closed highways and some motorists lost their way and ended up in ditches, said Bob Tracy of State Radio Communications.
The wind gusted to 80 m.p.h. in Brookings, S. D., and gusts of 72 m.p.h. were clocked in Redig.
Horse Races Canceled
In Cicero, Ill., snow, wind and cold forced cancellation of Thursday's horse racing card at Hawthorne, track spokesman John Brokopp said. "It's our first cancellation of this year," he said.
Meteorologist Sammler said that temperatures overnight would be in the 20s and 30s in central Florida but that temperatures should rise into the 70s today.
Florida farmers, hit by a damaging freeze last January, when more than 200,000 acres of crops were destroyed, took precautions to protect citrus trees. But officials said it had not been cold enough long enough to damage the orchards.
Temperatures below 28 degrees for four hours or more can damage fruit, and temperatures below 20 degrees can kill trees, experts say.
"So far as we know, we had no damaging temperatures, no loss of fruit," Ernie Neff of Florida Citrus Mutual said Thursday.
In Tallahassee, Fla., it was 13 degrees Thursday, 1 degree below the record set in 1983. The 5 degrees in Greer, S. C., broke by 6 degrees the record set in 1983.