Eight Die in Fire as Freezing Temperatures Hit South Too

VIDEO: Communities still digging out of the mud need to brace for more. PlayABCNEWS.com
WATCH Round 2: California Faces Another Storm

Eight people seeking refuge from freakish freezing temperatures in an abandoned New Orleans warehousedied today when a fire apparently got out of control and destroyed the building.

While the Northeast digs out from a massive blizzard, other areas of the country were also battling extreme weather.

In northern California, crews were building sandbag dikes ahead of a heavy storm that threatens to a repeat of last weeks floods and mudslides that inundated towns and swept away cars.

The New Orleans victims, believed to be homeless, were burning wood in a barrel inside the warehouse to stay warm, the city's fire department told The Associated Press. The fire also killed two dogs.

When the fire was reported around 2 a.m., temperatures were just below freezing. A man who lives nearby said the homeless in the area often go inside boarded-up buildings to stay warm, according to the AP.

When the first fire truck arrived, the warehouse was already fully ablaze. By the time they got to the bodies, firefighters were unable to discern the victims' age or gender.

Two survivors of the fire said that the victims were already unconscious when the building caught fire. The New Orleans fire department said that when something is burned in a closed space, carbon monoxide builds up, which probably knocked out the victims.

Louisiana is not the only state in the Deep South to find itself in the deep freeze.

A record-breaking chill has hit southern Florida, where many people had retreated seeking refuge from cold temperatures in the North. West Palm Beach and Vero Beach both broke their record lows for today, hitting 35 degrees and 31 degrees.

Over the weekend, Atlanta, Ga., saw its first white Christmas in more than 120 years. The cold continued into Monday with a freeze warning issued over night.

Extreme Weather in the North, South and West

The damage to the region's citrus crop will be minimal, said Joel Burgio, a senior agricultural meteorologist for DTN Weather, a farm information service in Massachusetts.

"The impact at this point in the season is mostly to the fruit that's on the trees. The cold weather causes ice crystals to form inside the actual fruit. Generally, that means that it needs to be harvested quickly in order to avoid spoiling," Burgio said. "There will be some loss of fruit production, they can't harvest it all... It won't be a large loss in production, but there will be some loss."

The South can expect more frigid temperatures.

"My concern is that we'll have icy roads beginning Saturday night," said ABC News affiliate Channel 2 Action News meteorologist David Chandley. Cold air entering the state will plunge the area into a "deep freeze," he said.

The West coast, which has been battered with heavy rains, is bracing for yet another storm.

The storm is brewing in the Pacific Northwest, spreading rain all over northern California. Snow and gusty winds will move east into Salt Lake City as the day progresses, and the rain will move south into Sacramento and Los Angeles after midnight and continue into Wednesday morning. Scattered showers will continue into Thursday.

"The hillsides are still very, very wet, and we're doing everything we can to avoid a repeat of last week's situation. On Wednesday the city of Highland was hit with super heavy rain and there was major runoff," information officer for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Bill Peters told ABC News.

"We ended up with homes inundated with mud and in a small community called The Villages, homes were buried in mud about 3 to 4 feet deep. Mud slides caused cars to be buried in the mud. Cars were sticking out at 45 degree angles – the mud lifted up the rear end and buried the front end," Peters said.

Sandbags have been placed across the city to prevent mudslides. "Thirty-nine of our inmate firefighter crews – 14 person crews – have been out since last Thursday working 12 to 14 hours a day, and in some instances 24 hours a day. We've laid down over 100,000 sandbags throughout the city."

La Canada Flintridge in the Pasadena area and Laguna Beach also suffered from runoff damage last week and have sustained those damages.

"Until we get a few weeks for the hillsides to dry out, any rain can create runoff conditions that can cause flooding. Depending on how the rain falls in Southern California, we can end up with widespread damage," Peters said.