Cold weather blasts through the South, record lows possible

Snow at North Carolina's Grandfather Mountain
Snow at North Carolina's Grandfather Mountain

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) — Winter has gotten a jump-start in over half the country, even though we're still more than two weeks away from the official start of the season. A Canadian high pressure system is pushing a blast of winter weather through the Southeast, leaving people shivering as far south as Florida.

Strawberry growers are trying to salvage delicate blooms, schools in at least eight North Carolina counties have closed because of snow, and cold weather shelters are open in Pascagoula, Miss.

Though temperatures are below normal for this time of year, the South does get frigid from time to time. Record lows in Columbia for this week are between 15 and 20 degrees. WIS Chief Meteorologist John Farley forecasts temperatures slightly above that this week, but said record lows are still possible.

National Weather Service meteorologist Christopher Hedge said the coldest temperatures will likely be Monday and Tuesday nights before a midweek warm-up. The next potential for rain is on Sunday.

The beaches on Hilton Head Island were pretty quiet Monday afternoon, with few locals or visitors braving the cold. Anyone that did venture outside was bundled up in coats, hats and gloves. Despite the frigid temperatures, people like Rob and Patty Wochinski say they're not letting it ruin their vacation. "It's a little cold, but we're making the best of it," said Rob. "We hopped on our bikes, hit the beach and here we are.
But they, like many other visitors on the island, are hoping the temperatures warm up before their vacation ends.

Florida is bracing for freezing temperatures tonight as far south as Tampa and Orlando, and even the fish farmers are concerned for their crop.

"There are going to be losses," predicted trout farmer Ron Connor. "It's just a matter of finding out how bad the losses are and that's something we won't know for several days or weeks."

Floridians are so unaccustomed to the cold that state emergency officials had to warn them to dress warmly and bring their pets inside.

Much of the country's midsection dealt with the storm all weekend, with snow snarling traffic in Cleveland and falling heavily in most of Michigan.

Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved. AP, WTOC and NBC contributed to this report.