Freezing Temps Stretch South to Florida

The first cold wave of the season brought an early white Christmas to much of the East on Monday and kept winter-haven states like Florida in an icy grip. In the West, wind gusts nearing 100 mph raked Colorado.

The arctic weather was blamed for several deaths — one in Michigan and two traffic deaths in New Jersey — and was a factor in at least three deaths in Minnesota. A search continued for the second day Monday for a little boy who had wandered from his Pennsylvania home.

In Warwick, R.I., an American Airlines flight skidded off an icy runway connector Monday as it prepared for takeoff from T.F. Green Airport (search); no one was injured.

The severe wind in Colorado forced skiers off the slopes in Breckenridge (search), closed highways and peeled the roof off a high school gym while a basketball team practiced. No serious injuries were reported.

"We generally get pretty high winds before a storm moves in," ski resort spokeswoman Emily Jacob said. "We really pay close attention to that. It's a safety concern for us."

Dry conditions and wind gusting to 25 mph in South Carolina fueled 30 wildfires, officials said.

Temperatures from Michigan to Pennsylvania ranged from the teens to below zero, while the Gulf Coast states recorded temperatures in the 20s and 30s as a cold front pushed East and arctic air rushed in behind.

"We feel like we're at the ski slopes instead of Disney World," said Amy Dawkins, 31, an attorney from Rockingham, N.C., visiting Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The cold wave dropped temperatures to near or below freezing in north Florida and into the 40s in central Florida.

The Florida citrus industry had no major worries because damage is seen only when readings stay at 28 or lower for at least four hours. But meteorologists warned frost was possible Monday night and Tuesday morning even in central and southern Florida's fruit and vegetable growing regions.

North Carolina's Outer Banks (search) got a rare dusting of snow. "We're 22 [degrees] trying to hit 23, so that's the type of day it's been," said National Weather Service meteorologist John Elardo in Newport, N.C.

Blizzard-like conditions were reported for much of Michigan — and another arctic blast and heavy snow was expected Tuesday.

The forecast farther East, however, was positively balmy: in the 50s in New York City for Tuesday and up to the 60s in the Southeast by the mid- to end-of-week.

In New Hampshire, wind chill advisories were in effect for some parts of the state through early Tuesday; forecasters said wind chills could reach 25 below in the northern reaches of the state.

"It's cold out, but it is winter," said Michael Smith, 47, of Berlin, N.H.

Thermometers registered below zero across West Virginia, including minus-2 at Charleston and 14 below at Snowshoe, the National Weather Service said. Bentleyville, Pa., south of Pittsburgh, dropped to 10 below zero, and Greensboro, N.C., posted a record low for Dec. 20 at 9 above. It was minus-4 at Kingdom Come State Park in Kentucky.

Farther north, it was 18 below zero at 9 a.m. at Massena, N.Y., with a wind chill of 28 below, the weather service said.

Homeless shelters were near capacity in the Atlanta area, where the temperature dropped to 16 degrees.

As much as 6½ inches of snow coated mountain roads in West Virginia, where 21 school districts closed for the day and others opened late.

"This last day of fall certainly doesn't feel like it," said Ken Batty, a meteorologist in Charleston, W.Va.

About 100 police, firefighters, and volunteers searched in the freezing weather Monday for a 9-year-old boy, described as having mental disorders, who had been missing since Saturday near South Williamsport, Pa. They turned their attention to storm drains, sheds and other possible hiding places. Temperatures were in the single digits Sunday night.

"It's been great, the support we've gotten from the general citizens and the population, even not from our general area," said police Chief Rexford Lowmiller. "We have found nothing, that's the bad part."