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Another cold blast chills Tampa Bay; record lows possible

March in Florida should conjure images of baseball, outdoor festivals and beach parties.

Not freeze warnings.

But another approaching cold wave likely will bring record low temperatures that help make this month one of the coldest Marches in history.

High temperatures today will struggle to get to the 60s. And then it's going to get colder.

A freeze watch will be in effect Tuesday night and Wednesday morning in northern areas, including Spring Hill and Brooksville, with temperatures possibly remaining below 32 degrees for more than two hours, according to the National Weather Service.

In Tampa and St. Petersburg, temperatures will dip into the upper 30s and mid 40s Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, Marquez said.

Nurseries and farms in the northern areas of Tampa Bay hunkered down Tuesday morning for the upcoming freeze.

At Sherwood Forest Nursery in Spring Hill, workers were busy covering plants and carrying others indoors at the 2-acre property.

"It sounds like it's going to be a good freeze," said owner Harlan Runion.

Ruth Davis, of Spring Lake Blueberry Farm in Brooksville, said they would use a temperature sensor to monitor the plants.

If the temperatures dip below 34 degrees, Davis will receive an automated telephone call informing her the plants are at risk.

"If that happens," she said, "we go out and turn the irrigation on."

At Aventura Nursery & Landscape in Spring Hill, manager Amber Stulley said workers were busy placing plants inside a heated greenhouse. Whatever didn't fit inside, she said, would be covered.

"There's a possibility that we could have some record lows tomorrow morning," said Bay New 9 meteorologist Juli Marquez.

In Tampa, the record low for March 27 is 39 degrees. In St. Petersburg, it is 46 degrees.

The cold wave is only the latest chapter in what has been a chilly March.

The coldest March on record was in 1969, when the average daily temperature dropped to 58.1. This year's average is 62.1, but the approaching cold front could lower that significantly, making this month one of the five-coldest Marches in history, the National Weather Service said.

Average high temperatures usually are trending toward 80 in the latter part of March. This year they have frequently been 10 or 15 degrees below the norm.

One key measure of the cold used by the weather service is the number of days people are heating their homes. This year has been about twice the norm.

"People have definitely been running their heaters, '' said Robert Garcia, meteorologist with the weather service's Ruskin office.

If not for a stretch of warm days in the middle of the month, the average temperature for this month would have been considerably lower, he said.

"That southerly flow can do wonders for us,'' Garcia said.

The good news is the southerly flow should take over again by the end of the week, bringing warmer air and pushing temperatures into the upper 70s or low 80s by the weekend.

Another cold blast chills Tampa Bay; record lows possible 03/26/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 10:52am]
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