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Arctic blast, record lows grip state

From Staff, AP Reports

An Arctic blast Friday threatened to keep Alabama in a freezing grip for a second consecutive night, with temperatures dropping into the teens across most of the state, setting records in a number of locales.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Stefkovich of Birmingham said the state is under a high pressure system, with no clouds and very cold

Record lows were recorded Thursday night and early Friday in dozens of cities, including Decatur, Huntsville, Muscle Shoals, Anniston and Pinson. All had temperatures in the low to mid teens. Some of the old records date back to 1927. Huntsville broke the 79-year-old record of 17 degrees with a low of 14. Muscle Shoals beat 1927's record of 16 by one degree.

The National Weather service had not been collecting data at Decatur long enough to consider the 15-degree low a record.

Courtland reported 15 degrees, and Bankhead Forest recorded 12 degrees. Meteorologists were still trying to determine whether a reading of 8 degrees at Belle Mina could be attributed to malfunctioning equipment. Some other equipment at the site reported a low of 12, said Brian Carcione with the National Weather Service.

Stefkovich said highs are expected to be in the 40s and 50s today, then normal Sunday — upper 50s to lower 60s.

Mobile's low was 24 degrees, which ties the previous record for the date set in 1882. Temperatures by Sunday should be back to normal, with highs in the upper 50s to lower 60s.

Stefkovich said highs are expected to be in the 40s and 50s on Saturday, then back to normal highs on Sunday — upper 50s to lower 60s.

The early-season freeze was blamed on an Arctic clipper streaming down from Canada.

A hard freeze warning was in effect Friday for the entire state. That means subfreezing temperatures are highly likely. The freeze could kill crops and other sensitive vegetation.

Hayes Jackson, an agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System in Calhoun County, said home gardeners should take care with outdoor plants, moving them inside, or at least to a covered porch.

Jackson said plants in containers that will remain outside should be watered well, as cold wind will dry them out. Extra mulch around susceptible plants also will help.

Many gardeners will be tempted to cover plants with plastic sheeting, but Jackson said that's just as dangerous, as the chilled plastic can get just as cold as air.

He recommended covering plants with a blanket first, then adding plastic to cut the wind.

Residents are also encouraged to bring pets indoors and check on the elderly.

Copyright 2005 THE DECATUR DAILY. All rights reserved.
AP contributed to this report.

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