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Polar vortex invades South, spiking energy use but sparing citrus growers (+video)

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(Read caption) Polar vortex opens wallets, warms hearts for Kentuckiana's homeless
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Many Southerners are fishing through the backs of their closets for woolies and anything with down, as the deep freeze that has gripped the northern United States dips well below the Mason-Dixon line, bringing record-breaking cold to some parts of the region. 

Sections of West Virginia saw the lowest temperatures in 25 years, while in Virginia temperatures broke records set in the 1950s.

Unlike folks in the often-frigid North, people in the South are not accustomed – and not typically equipped – to weather such a chill.

The cold weather is putting stress on the electricity grid in states where a large share of residents rely on electric heat. The Tennessee Valley Authority, one of the South’s largest public utilities, said electricity demand Tuesday morning reached the second-highest winter peak since the 1920s. Some Tennessee residents lost power intermittently during the night. A large utility in South Carolina implemented 15-minute rolling blackouts to address demand.

Officials in states across the South have been urging residents to stock their cars with blankets and additional clothes in the event they become stranded on the road. AAA, the roadside assistance service, reported an increase in calls from stranded motorists in Virginia Tuesday morning.

While relatively few Americans are being spared the deep freeze, homeless individuals often bear the brunt of extreme temperatures. Prolonged exposure to cold can be deadly, and the body of a homeless man was discovered Monday night in a vacant lot in Columbus, Ga. The man apparently succumbed to hypothermia.

Charitable organizations have been working overtime to ensure that homeless residents have a warm place to go.

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