Image: Bundled up tourists in South Beach, Fla.
Alan Diaz  /  AP
Pasquale Mariniello, left, and Rossella Esposito, of Naples, Italy, in the South Beach area of Miami Beach. Morning temperatures were in the low 40s in Miami on Wednesday.
updated 1/6/2010 7:26:55 PM ET 2010-01-07T00:26:55

Across the so-called Sunshine State, oranges and strawberries are freezing, icicles are hanging off palm fronds, and iguanas paralyzed by the cold are falling out of trees.

Temperatures have plunged as low as the 20s in recent days, forcing people used to wearing flip-flops year-round to put on earmuffs.

"I am a warm-weather boy. There's no way I'm going out there," laughed Archie Adkins of Pensacola Beach as he pointed at bundled-up beachgoers.

And Floridians better bundle up: Flurries are forecast for the Panhandle on Thursday, and temperatures in the rest of the state are running at least 20 degrees below normal.

Scenes from around frozen Florida on Wednesday:

Braving the beach
On Miami Beach, tourists wrapped in wool coats and hooded sweatshirts trolled the beach beneath a clear sky. Some let the water wash over their feet, and a few brave souls even lay out in bikinis and swimming shorts.

Arnold De Haan, visiting from Amsterdam, wore a bathing suit and sunglasses as he rested on a lounge chair beneath a blue cabana that shielded him from the wind. Next to him, his husband, Alex De Haan, put on suntan lotion.

A brisk wind blew, and temperatures hovered in the 50s.

"We're not going to be negatively influenced by the weather," Arnold De Haan said. "But next time, we'll be better prepared and take some warm clothes."

Many tourists bought extra sweatshirts and used the clothes they had set aside for the trip back home instead of the shorts and swimming suits they packed. Restaurant hostesses on Ocean Drive served warm drinks to customers in bulky coats sitting on outside patios.

Annie Parent rolled up her jeans and watched as her 3-year-old daughter, Olivia, played in the surf, stepping into the cool water dressed in a diaper and pink hooded sweatshirt.

"We went to Florida because we live in Quebec City, and there it's really cold," Parent said. "But here it's cold too."

Nonetheless, her daughter wanted to enjoy the sand.

"Florida for us is beach," Parent said. "Even if it's cold."

Frigid Epiphany
Every year on Jan. 6, the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates Epiphany. As part of the celebration in Tarpon Springs, a white cross is thrown into the Spring Bayou, and teenage boys dive in to retrieve it.

Finding the heavy wooden cross gives a teen a special blessing, which according to custom, will bring prosperity all year. Video: Cold spell threatens Florida crops

It was 38 degrees when the 66 teens dove in Wednesday. The water was 50 degrees on the surface.

With some 20,000 people looking on, the boys swam in a frenzy. Seventeen seconds later, 16-year-old Dimitri Kalogiannis retrieved the cross. Then came the hard part: getting out of the cold water into the colder air.

Dripping wet, Kalogiannis was hoisted onto the shoulders of his fellow teen divers, who carried him two blocks to the Greek Orthodox Church.

Still clutching the white cross — and shivering — Kalogiannis stood at the church's altar, barefoot and wet.

He grinned.

"When I was underwater, I saw a white glow. It just glowed," he said. "It wasn't as cold as I thought it would be."

Frozen oranges
Julie and John Arnold's 260-acre orange grove in the central Florida town of Clermont was filled with large icicles dangling from trees. And nearby canals were nearly a foot below average because of all the water the Arnolds and their neighbors have sprayed on crops to protect them.

They estimated about 10 percent of the Temple oranges on their land were lost, but that type of citrus is a small part of their total. Their other oranges were almost entirely intact.

The couple has been working around-the-clock for nearly two days to save their crops. Far colder weather has descended on their trees in the past, but the cold usually does not last so long.

"I've done a half-marathon before. This is much more nerve-wracking, much more exhausting," Julie said. "This is the ultimate endurance race."

State officials in Tallahassee were optimistic that crop damage was minimal but cautioned that it was too early to tell for sure.

"That's the $64,000 question," said Terence McElroy, spokesman for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. "The preliminary indications are that there has not been any catastrophic damage."

State officials were still urging farmers to take every measure possible because the hard freeze in some areas was expected to last for most of the week.

"There are precautions that can be taken, but in the final analysis, there's only so much you can do," McElroy said. "Mother Nature will have the last say."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Arctic blast leaves millions in deep freeze

  1. Closed captioning of: Arctic blast leaves millions in deep freeze

    >>> news" begins now.

    >>> good evening. tonight our friends at the weather channel tell us this next wave of winter weather is not your average air mass . before it's all over, it will impact an estimated 180 million americans. that's over 60% of the people in this country. there are advisories posted tonight in 27 out of the 50 states . out and out weather warnings in 16 states. it takes up a huge area, and while we get it, it is january, forecasters warn this system will still be a shock to a lot of folks. nbc's janet shamly leaves off our coverage from kansas city , missouri.

    >> reporter: good evening. the majority of people in this country are seeing and feeling temperatures they are not used to. in kansas city , it is among the coldest cities in the nation tonight. there is plenty of this weather to go around. it is winter after all.

    >> a lot of clothing. warm thermals.

    >> reporter: this year's scope and duration of this arctic blast may redefine a mean season. from kansas city , where temperatures in the teens closed hundreds of schools.

    >> today i didn't want to go through all the traffic, but thought it would be worth it to come here and go down the hill a few times.

    >> reporter: to jerome that where 280 was deemed too dangerous to drive. 32 states are under winter warnings or watches. in the midwest, the breadbasket is now an ice box . not even the south is immune.

    >> i'm tan trung in atlanta. traffic snarls as crews rush to repair the damage.

    >> we are seeing about six times as many breaks this week as we do in the summer.

    >> reporter: officials anticipate more problems as the week goes on.

    >> reporter: i'm kerry sanders in plant city , florida, where it's all about the agriculture. there is a $365 million unpicked strawberry crop and a billion dollars worth of sit ris yet to be harvested. farmers say the 28-degree temperatures early this morning caused less than a 5% damage to that unpicked fruit, but their real concern is the coming freezes the next few days.

    >> reporter: the deep freeze is a slow-mover. some cities won't get above freezing until next week.

    >> we have cold air every winter. this is unique dawe of the duration. some areas of the country haven't been this cold in some 10, 15 years.

    >> reporter: in st. charles parish, louisiana, weeks of rain and cold mean headache to farmers who lost nearly 50 calfs to malnutrition. for others, 38 degrees sounded perfect for a swim.

    >> we do it every year on the coldest day of the year. it don't get much colder than today.

    >> reporter: proof of that up and down the mighty mississippi carved into cubes of ice. and up next, what's called a clipper snowstorm with more heavy snow and freeze warnings forecast from here to chicago.

    >> janet shamlian , thanks.

    >>> we turn to the subject

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