Arctic Blast Hits East Coast

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Freezing temperatures hit northern Florida on Monday morning, readings dropped below zero across West Virginia and snow made mountain highways treacherous as the first big cold wave of the season swept southward.

Even North Carolina's Outer Banks got a rare seaside dusting of snow, and more than 2 feet fell near the Great Lakes.

The blast of Arctic air — one day before the official start of winter — drove temperatures in the Florida Panhandle down to 31 degrees at Crestview, 32 at Pensacola.

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 that frost was possible Monday night and Tuesday morning even in central and southern Florida's fruit and vegetable growing regions.

Thermometers registered below zero across West Virginia, including 2 below at the capital city of 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.

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.

"When weather gets this bitterly cold, we see faces we rarely see," said Tyler Driver, executive director of The Extension, an emergency shelter in suburban Marietta, Ga.

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.

Parts of New England had blowing snow, and more than 130 schools closed or had delayed openings in New Hampshire. An airliner slid off a taxiway at Rhode Island's T.F. Green Airport but no one was injured.

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.

"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."

Icy pavement was blamed for two traffic deaths in New Jersey.

The icy wind sucked up moisture from the Great Lakes and dumped 26 inches of snow on Michigan City in northern Indiana.

Bonnie and Jim Tilden got stranded Sunday near Rolling Prairie, Ind. "It was terrible on I-94. You couldn't see at all, and we didn't see any snowplows," Bonnie Tilden said.

Blowing snow caused whiteout conditions in western Pennsylvania, and a tractor-trailer jackknifed across Interstate 80, setting off a chain-reaction pileup that wrecked up to 80 vehicles Sunday.