Page last updated at 15:19 GMT, Friday, 8 January 2010

Cold snap shocks US 'sunshine state' of Florida

Miami beach, Florida
Thermals replaced bikinis on Florida's usually sunny Miami beach

The US cold snap has struck the famously warm southern state of Florida, damaging key citrus crops and shocking both residents and tourists.

Temperatures have dipped and tourists hoping to enjoy Florida's balmy climes have been donning coats to keep warm.

Iguanas were seen falling from trees in southern Florida while manatees - or sea cows - congregated in warmer waters outside power plants.

Temperatures have fallen to around 0C, far below normal levels in the state.

An environmental specialist for the Tampa Electric Company, in whose waters giant eagle rays and spinner sharks also sought refuge, said it was typical for such animals to swim to warmer waters.

"This is a spa for them," Wendy Anastasiou told the Associated Press news agency.

At the Palm Beach Zoo, workers transferred some 50 parrots and some of its collection of monkeys indoors and set up heat lamps to keep the other animals warm.

'Strange situation'

Although temperatures in the southern state were nowhere near as brutal as in the northern US states, blighted by snow drifts and arctic winds, Cintia Martinez, a cruise operator for Royal Caribbean, told AFP news agency the sudden dip was "a strange situation".

A citrus fruit picker in Merritt Island, Florida
Citrus farmers have been collecting their fruit early to avoid ice damage

She said that luckily many of those on the company's cruises had come from Nordic countries and were able to cope with the colder weather.

"I'm a little disappointed and frustrated - I was hoping to get a tan," said Helsinki resident Marja Vesikko-Sorsa, on holiday in the sunshine state.

Farmers and fruit-growers are worried that colder temperatures this weekend will damage more of their crop.

Already some say that as much as 10% of their harvested oranges and lemons have been damaged by the formation of ice crystals.

Concerns over the potential damage to orange crops has pushed up frozen concentrated orange juice futures in New York, which hit their highest levels in almost two years.

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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES Florida Chill: Manatees Huddle, Turtles Stunned - 43 hrs ago
Sky News Cold Iguanas Fall From Trees In US - 43 hrs ago
France24 Wool hats over bikinis in freezing Florida - 45 hrs ago
CBS News Icy Temps Take Toll on Florida's Animals - 50 hrs ago
Washington Post Fla.'s Big Chill: Iguanas drop, manatees huddle - 52 hrs ago

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