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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Let's Talk About The Weather

Business Week

The eastern half of the U.S. faces a cold, windy day with record-breaking temperatures in the Rocky Mountains and northern Plains. Florida orange growers likely escaped crop damage last night.

The National Weather Service issued hard freeze warnings for this morning and tonight into tomorrow morning for southern Alabama and Georgia and the northern part of Florida, including the panhandle. Such warnings alert growers of temperatures that may fall below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (zero Celsius) for more than three consecutive hours.

A southern dip of the jet stream, which normally keeps the coldest air north of the Hudson Bay in Canada, prompted record low temperatures in North Dakota and Minnesota, said Dave Samuhel, a meteorologist for AccuWeather.com Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.

“It has been really cold the past two nights in North Dakota and Minnesota, including 37 degrees below zero in International Falls,” Samuhel said in a telephone interview.

The temperature in that Minnesota town, typically the coldest spot in the nation, set a daily record, he said. The January record for International Falls is 46 degrees below zero, Samuhel said.

Jacksonville, Florida, fell to 26 degrees overnight, well below the typical temperature of 42 degrees, he said. A low of 20 degrees is forecast for tonight, which would break the existing record of 22 degrees, Samuhel said. Orlando may slip to 27 degrees tonight, shattering its record of 31 degrees, he said.

Florida likely escaped any crop damage since the main citrus-growing areas were above freezing last night, Samuhel said. “Tonight will be a little bit colder, but I don’t expect widespread damage.” Below-freezing temperatures wouldn’t last long enough to cause damage to the fruit, he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture last month estimated Florida’s orange crop will be 0.7 percent smaller than earlier forecast because adverse weather reduced fruit size. The state is the world’s second biggest orange producer after Brazil.

The major cities along the U.S. East Coast are braced for single-digit wind chill temperatures today with winds gusting as high as 45 miles per hour from New York to Washington. The coldest overnight temperature was 16 degrees at Baltimore, Samuhel said.

“The biggest deal in all the major cities will be the wind,” he said.