MIAMI – Freakish cold weather continued to grip the southern United States, with snow flurries spotted around Orlando and a record low set for Miami, and forecasters said Sunday that more of the same was expected.
About 100,000 tropical fish being raised on a fish farm in South Florida couldn't bear the cold. Michael Breen, 43, who owns Breen Acres Aquatics in the small town of Loxahatchee Groves just north of Miami, said temperatures dropped below freezing overnight, leaving ice on his 76 ponds.
The ponds should be green because of algae bloom that feeds baby fish, he said.
"But all the ponds are crystal clear and fish are laying on the bottom. What we see on the surface died two days ago," he said, referring to the dead fish found floating Sunday morning.
Breen estimated he lost $535,000 in business because of the cold.
The National Weather Service issued a hard freeze warning for South Florida from Sunday night to Monday morning. A freeze watch will continue through Tuesday. Northern Florida residents will feel temperatures drop to the lower 20s and mid-teens.
On Saturday night, a temperature of 35 degrees set a record that had stood since 1970, said Joel Rothfuss with the National Weather Service in Miami.
He said a record low of 37 degrees on Monday, which was set in 1927, could also be broken, with the forecast saying it would drop to 35 degrees again.
For the first time in at least 30 years, Miami Metrozoo shut its doors because it was too cold. Atlanta's zoo was closed because the trails were iced over, officials said. Temperatures in Atlanta stayed around freezing over the weekend. The average high for Atlanta is in the 50 degrees (around 10 Celsius) with lows in the 30s (around 0 Celsius).
The start of the Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando was 28 degrees before dawn, though it climbed above freezing by late afternoon. Average highs in the central Florida city this time of year are in the lows 70s.
In a suburb north of Atlanta, two teens died Saturday after falling through the ice on a partially frozen pond. The surviving teen was in stable condition at a hospital, said Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services Capt. Tommy Rutledge. He said the three, ages 13 to 15, were playing and sliding on the semi-frozen pond when the ice broke.
"I'm sure that that frozen over pond was probably enticing to the kids," he said.
Ice does not freeze uniformly with some spots only an inch thick, he said. They had been warning children to stay off frozen-over ponds, he said.
In Vermont, state police said a snowmobiling accident on a partially frozen lake killed three people Saturday, including a 3-year-old girl.
Police say three snowmobiles carrying a total of six people went through ice on Lake Dunmore near Salisbury at around noon Saturday.
Breen said his Florida town, which raises everything from tropical birds and fish to organic produce and palm trees, was holding on to the little that was left from the cold.
"Everybody is just wiped out. It's that bad," he said.