Global Warming Update: Bitter Weather, Brutal Temperatures Persist As Freezing Rain, Sleet Expected Over Wide Swath
December 15th, 2010
(CNN) -- Parts of eastern United States that have already experienced bitter temperatures aren't going to escape harsh conditions anytime soon.
The National Weather Service said a low pressure system will draw warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico up into Kentucky and Tennessee, introducing the threat of freezing rain that could coat roads, trees and power lines.
The weather agency said the freezing precipitation will start as snow and then gradually change into sleet and freezing rain by Wednesday morning. Ice is expected to accumulate up to a quarter of an inch across Kentucky and Tennessee and possibly into northern Mississippi and Alabama.
Areas from Minnesota to Ohio to New York have already seen more than a foot of snow in the past several days.
And brutal weather has stranded hundreds of people on a Canadian highway and jeopardized crops in Florida with freezing temperatures this week.
On Tuesday, about 300 people were stranded after what a local official called the most brutal storm to hit the Ontario region in more than two decades.
Some people had been stuck in their vehicles for more than 24 hours following blinding snow that piled up so high that opening vehicle doors proved nearly impossible.
"You really felt almost despair," said Brandon Junkin, who spent almost 24 hours stranded before being rescued Tuesday afternoon after he heard a helicopter hovering over his immobilized truck. He had run out of gas and was without anything other than a blanket to help him through the ordeal.
The Canadian military assigned a CC-130 Hercules airplane and two CH-146 Griffons helicopters to the search and rescue effort, which also includes snowmobiles and four-wheel-drive vehicles from the provincial police.
Ontario Provincial Police initially reported about 360 vehicles and about 300 people had been stranded near Sarnia, Ontario, on Highway 402 -- a major thoroughfare linking the U.S.-Canada border to London, Ontario.
On Wednesday, officials said everyone had had been rescued.
"It's been a pretty interesting experience for the last two days here," Sarnia police Sgt. Paul Mullins said. "In 23 years, I haven't seen anything like this."
Some residents offered up their homes and food to stranded motorists, Mullins said.
On Tuesday, record lows were set from Virginia to Florida. High temperatures were 30 degrees below average for this time of year.
But Florida's winter fruit and vegetable crops have apparently survived freezing temperatures without too much damage, industry officials said Tuesday.
Southwest Florida saw the lowest temperature dip, with the mercury falling into the upper 20s, causing scattered damage to green beans, peppers and tomato plants.
CNN Radio's Greg Black, CNN meteorologists Angela Fritz and Rob Marciano and CNN's John Couwels contributed to this report.