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Easter Weekend Brings Snow And Chills

You call this spring?

That's what lots of folks are asking, as they deal with April snow and unusually cold weather this Easter weekend.

In the nation's capital, tourists awoke this morning to see spring blossoms coated with snow. But officials say Cherry Blossom Festival events are going on as planned.

Snow flurries even fell in Atlanta, which is seeing its lowest temperatures for the date in 100 years.

The usual harbingers of spring — Easter, spring break, baseball, and planting season — along with what has felt like a heat wave in recent weeks, have conspired to give people a false sense of the season, said climatologist David Stooksbury, who also teaches engineering and atmospheric sciences at the University of Georgia.

"Once it starts getting into the 70s day after day, it's a little hard to fight off that urge to go out there and want to plant our summer flowers and vegetables," he said.

And it's less-than-ideal golf weather in Augusta, Georgia. As the third round of the Masters got under way this morning, temperatures were in the low 40s and winds were blowing up to 15 miles per hour from the north.

In Ohio, snow has postponed a doubleheader between the Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners. The doubleheader had been scheduled after yesterday's home opener at Jacobs Field was postponed.

The cold weather, says CBS News meteorologist George Cullen, is the result of an intense storm system sweeping down extremely cold air from central Canada on down to the U.S.

A large dome of Arctic cold high pressure will continue moving southward into the central part of the country through the weekend.

"We're going to be in record territory, for sure," Jim Moser, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Nashville, Tennessee, said.

Sunday morning lows were expected to be in the low 20s for much of the state, including most of West Tennessee, Middle Tennessee and the lower elevations of East Tennessee.

Lows in the state's mountainous areas and the Cumberland Plateau could dip into the teens and Memphis' low temperature was expected to hover around 30.

The coldest Easter in Nashville, which had a forecast Easter low of 22 degrees, came on March 24, 1940, when the morning temperature was 24 degrees.

The chilly temperatures could also threaten crops like blueberries, said Stanley Scarborough, production manager of Sunnyridge Farms, with fields in Baxley and Homerville, Ga.

"We're concerned," said Scarborough, who is also the vice president of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association.

"At 26 or 27 degrees, you would probably lose half of the Georgia crop," valued at about $20 million to $25 million dollars, Scarborough said.

But he said he believed temperatures will more likely be around 29 to 32 degrees, which could affect between 15 and 20 percent of the crop, at a loss of $10 million to $15 million.

Scarborough said the majority of the state's blueberry crop, a variety called rabbit-eye, is normally harvested around June 1. This year, the bushes bloomed early because of the recent warm temperatures, Scarborough said, and the blueberries are not able to withstand freezing temperatures.

In Alabama, growers scrambled to protect early-blooming peach orchards. State Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks said if temperatures stay at 28 to 29 degrees for two hours, with this stage of peach growth, there could be "very severe" damage to the crop.

"If we stay there for four hours, we could possibly lose the peach crop," he said.

The sudden shift in temperatures can be lethal to plants, said Chuck McSpadden of Apple Valley Orchard in Bradley County in East Tennessee.

"At the stage we're in, a temperature of 25-26 degrees will kill 90 percent of this year's crop," he said.