Weather. Wherever you go, it's a hot topic of conversation.

That couldn't have been more true recently in south Florida, where an Arctic blast had residents in that usually toasty state shivering in shock.

Earlier this week Miami reported a low of 36 degrees to beat an 82-year-old record of 37. Key West had 42 degrees, the second-coldest reading since 1873.

For Ed, my mother and me, a recent trip to the Miami area gave us an opportunity to not only experience that region's unusual bout of cold weather, but also see how Floridians cope with temperatures most Midwesterners take in stride.

Worries there ranged from the threat to the citrus crop to the health and well-being of local residents. The concern led officials in the tiny village where we stayed, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, to issue an e-mail warning under the headline "Cold weather can be deadly."

"Plunging temperatures are a direct threat to life and limb, especially for the elderly, small children, the chronically ill, substance abusers and individuals who stay out in the cold for long periods ... To avoid hypothermia and frostbite wear at least three layers of clothing, even indoors ...

"Wear a stocking cap. Forty percent of body heat escapes through the scalp ... Wear mittens rather than gloves because mittens keep hands warmer ..."

It all seemed sage advice for anyone battling winter's wrath. Yet we were wearing summer clothes during the day and hanging out on the beach as temperatures lingered in the low 60s, while the locals went about their business bundled up in winter coats and scarves.

It's hard to say who looked more ridiculous.

Not that we would ever poke fun at the folks in south Florida for being so uncomfortable in unseasonably cold weather. When record low temperatures strike anywhere, including Kansas and other states more accustomed to extreme conditions, it can be annoying, difficult to adjust and downright frightening.

We were interested to see how those in the agriculture business in Florida would react to the cold snap, much as our own farmers and producers in Kansas must adjust to unpredictable weather.

To protect that state's best known produce oranges and other citrus crops some Florida fruit growers hurried to harvest, while others planned to water their plants to protect them in a coat of ice from the frigid air.

Unfortunately, just as those who raise crops and livestock here know, Florida producers were at the mercy of the weather, with no guarantee of a good outcome.

Ed and I also thought back to a previous visit to the same locale, during the same week seven years before. Both times we were in south Florida for the Orange Bowl.

Our Kodak moments from the 2003 game show us in shorts and polo shirts, sweating it out on a hot, humid night. This year's images are of us layered in warm clothing from head to toe as the evening game-time temperature dipped into the 40s.

Was the dramatic difference in weather proof of climate change brought about by global warming or some other force? That's open to debate.

One thing we do know is that regardless of the nasty curveballs Mother Nature tosses our way from stifling heat to bitter cold we need to improvise and move on.

Based on what we discovered in the unusual sights and sounds of a Florida deep freeze, that ability comes more naturally to some than we ever imagined.

E-mail Editor-publisher Dena Sattler at