Volunteers in Los Angeles scurried yesterday to find replacements for frost-damaged flowers on Rose Parade floats, and residents in states used to milder winters continued to shiver from unusual cold.
Low records on Christmas Day were shattered in more than 125 U.S. cities, and at least 80 deaths have been blamed on cold and floods.
Wind machines, orchard heaters and sprinklers deployed to fight the freeze could not save much of California's orange, lemon, avocado and strawberry crops. Leaves on avocado trees were limp, their edges dried to a frosty crisp. The usually waxy green leaves on lemon trees turned gold and curled.
Worst off are orchards of navel oranges, said Bob Krauter of the California Farm Bureau Federation. But he said no estimate of the cost of the damage was available.
California's 1989-90 navel orange crop was valued at $248 million, according to state reports. California Citrus Mutual, a growers' organization, estimated that 80 percent of the current crop was still on the trees when frost hit. Since that portion of the crop was wiped out, the figures indicate that losses could reach $200 million.
In Sacramento, Calif., yesterday brought a record low for the seventh consecutive day: 23 degrees. It broke the 1962 record of 26 degrees. Other record lows around the nation included: Aberdeen, S.D., 29 degrees below zero; Albuquerque, 5 degrees; and Amarillo, Tex., 5 degrees. The lowest recorded temperature was 45 degrees below zero in Embarrass, Minn.
Meanwhile, Kodiak, Alaska, basked in Christmas Day's record high of 47 degrees. The previous mark was 46 degrees, set in 1984.
Ann Jones of Tupelo, Miss., was among thousands of people who endured a lack of heat when a natural gas pipeline crossing the Tombigbee River ruptured in a rush of high water over the weekend. Heat was restored Tuesday. "We have been camped out in front of the fireplace making memories," she said. "The best Christmas present was the heat and hot water."
The cold hindered builders in a hurry to complete Rose Parade floats. Volunteers busily attached corn husks, dried straw flowers and onion seeds while float builders searched for replacements for frost-damaged marigolds, lavenders and irises. "The weather has us scurrying, but that's what this business is all about," said Rick Chapman, owner of Azusa's Festival Artists-Floatmasters Inc. "It hasn't been this cold since 1981."