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John Wheeler, WDAY, Published January 16 2013

Weather Talk: Southwestern United States struggles with cold weather

Reports of the cold weather across the southwestern United States have drawn laughs from North Dakotans and Minnesotans who understand cold weather in an altogether different way than those in Arizona and Southern California. But while cold is absolute in some ways, such as the temperature at which water freezes, it is much more relative in others.

In Southern California, downtown Los Angeles dropped to 34 degrees, the coldest in 20 years. High temperatures at the beaches have been in the 50s for a week now. This is hard weather for people who generally own nothing warmer than a light jacket. Four consecutive nights below freezing in Phoenix caused homeless shelters to fill to overflow capacity.

The citrus crop in Arizona has been threatened. Farmers were up all night several nights in a row spraying trees with water. Strange as it may seem, the ice actually protects the delicate plants by keeping the temperature inside close to 32 degrees even as the outside air gets colder. Only time will tell how badly the cold has damaged orange and grapefruit trees.

Have a weather question you’d like answered? Email weather@wday.com, or write to WDAY Stormtracker, WDAY-TV, Box 2466, Fargo, ND 58108

Read the blog at http://stormtrack.areavoices.com/.