Harsh freeze expected to extend winter misery for days in East, South

Cold snap will chill eastern U.S. into next week

A bitter freeze gripping the East is expected to extend winter misery into next week with some of the coldest temperatures in two decades, according to the National Weather Service.

Especially hard hit will be the central Appalachians, which include West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and southern Ohio, said David Roth, weather forecaster with the service's Weather Prediction Center. Temperature lows in this region could dip into the negative teens Thursday night, he said.

Friday will be even colder, and temperatures in the central Appalachians, Southeast U.S. and mid-Atlantic regions could be the coldest since the mid-1990s, according to the service. Some light snow or snow showers are also expected from the Great Lakes to the Mid-Atlantic and New England, where Boston is staggering under record-breaking amounts of snow.

Temperatures are expected to be a bit milder after Friday, but forecasts predict weather will stay colder than normal for more than a week, Roth said.

The freezing temperatures are courtesy of a cold front coming south from Canada. The snow already on the ground from earlier storms, which decreases ground temperature, only makes it feel colder, Roth said.

Freeze warnings are also in effect through Friday for central and southern Florida, which has growers worried, said Lisa Lochridge, public affairs director for the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Assn.

"It is late in the season to be getting temperatures this low," she said. "I know from experience that when we have these kinds of freezes, they’ve been earlier in the season, like in early to mid-January.”

Florida is the primary supplier for fresh produce during the winter months, Lochridge said, so growers are either preparing their crops for the freeze or harvesting anything that is close to being ripe.

Crops such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, celery, sweet corn, squash, lettuce and cucumbers are being harvested this season, she said.

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