Southern Cold Front Could Have Severe Consequences

The shocking cold that spread across the East Coast in early January coupled with a winter storm  created brutal storms and hit parts of the country that had not seen temperatures below freezing or winter weather in decades. Coastal areas of the South such as South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, which are often 60 to 80 degrees this time of year, saw temperatures in the 30’s during the day and below 20 degrees at night, as well as more snow than Chapel Hill saw during the cold spell. While this did lead to some very funny moments, such as frozen iguanas falling from trees and people gawking in childlike awe at snowflakes, it lead to some dangerous consequences.

Due to the fact that many did not have the skills or experience to cope with bitter cold and all that it brings, schools and universities cancelled classes and drivers were told to stay off the roads, with some  even closed because of the ice. The reasons for the warnings were seen soon enough: crash rates along Interstate 95 skyrocketed, with hundreds of wrecks in only a few days. Florida’s amusement park attractions, like Universal Studios and SeaWorld, were forced to close as well. Less benignly, the wind chill of around 5 degrees meant that almost 10 were sent to the ER for frostbite, with even some recorded deaths.

Not only were the people suffering, but the environment saw some serious problems arise. The iguanas froze, but all the cold blooded animals that inhabit the region were also unable to handle the sudden deep freeze. Each has taken to a survival technique in the face of the exact opposite of their habitat, as pythons have been burrowing deep into the ground to find warm pockets and alligators have allowed themselves to freeze in the water with only their snouts sticking up, essentially going dormant.  

“The frigid spell is going to have a minimal impact,” postulated professor Frank Marzotti of the University of Florida. However, if this pattern of more extreme winter weather continues in coming years the South’s delicate fauna could be in for some serious trouble.

Similarly, the prominence of agriculture in the South means an enormous industry that depends on the weather could take serious blows. Many of the crops grown require warmer temperatures to survive, and one deep freeze could kill off enormous quantities of important and necessary goods. Not only could the rest of the country be cut off from warm weather crops, but the states hit by this winter weather rely heavily economically on agriculture. In Georgia alone agriculture contributes nearly $75 billion to the state economy, and employs over 14% of the population.  Any shortcomings and the financials blows could be devastating, to areas that are already suffering economic losses.

Florida's snowfall left both residents and the environment
Florida’s snowfall left both residents and the environment

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