ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A Canadian high pressure system pushed a blast of winter weather through the Southeast on Monday, leaving people shivering as far south as Florida.
Strawberry growers there tried to salvage delicate blooms, schools in at least eight North Carolina counties closed because of snow, and cold weather shelters opened in Pascagoula, Miss.
Though temperatures were below normal for the first week of December, the South does get frigid weather from time to time, said Christopher Hedge, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
He said the coldest temperatures would likely be Monday and Tuesday nights before a midweek warm-up.
Such cold is so unusual that Florida officials issued a statement reminding people to dress warmly and bring their pets inside. Broward County on the southeast coast and Lee County in the southwest opened cold-weather shelters.
Temperatures in the Sunshine State were expected to dip into the upper 30s, but with wind chill, the real feel will be lower, even in normally balmy Fort Lauderdale.
The National Weather Service issued a hard freeze warning has been issued from Monday night through Tuesday morning for southeast Alabama, southwest and south central Georgia and the Florida Panhandle.
Monday's cold weather forced cancellation of schools in eight North Carolina counties, where 6 inches of snow fell on Mount Mitchell and 1 to 3 inches was reported in Asheville. Frigid weather was forecast statewide and a snow advisory was issued for the mountains.Video: Learning to live with 'the lake effect' (on this page)
Snow also piled up in the mountains of far western Maryland, where The Wisp, the state's only ski resort, opened over the weekend.
In Tennessee, Newfound Gap in the Smokies was under eight inches of snow on Monday and Mt. LeConte had 13 inches on the ground.
In Terra Alta, W.Va., which had about 300 inches of snow last winter, travelers appeared unaffected by the 8 inches that had fallen by late afternoon Monday. They bought gas and stopped at the convenience store near a Dairy Queen that owner Cecil Royce was repainting.
In Florida, farmers were on alert for below-freezing weather that could harm delicate winter crops.
Ted Campbell, the executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, said the light frost expected in the mornings this week isn't catastrophic for the nation's biggest region for winter strawberries, but farmers will need to be careful.
"The cold snap is slowing the maturing fruit," said Campbell. "It's not exactly ideal, but it's not a disaster, either."
He added that in some areas where there is a hard freeze — temperatures below freezing for several hours — farmers may have turning on sprinklers to create a layer of ice to insulate the berries.
© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.