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Blast of frigid air arrives in Tampa Bay this week

A blast of frigid air that starts blowing today through Tampa Bay brings wind chills and freeze watches and could rival a record low set more than a century ago.

An arctic air mass sliding south will hit the area this week, with Tuesday morning lows predicted to be only 31 degrees, according to Bay News 9 meteorologist Diane Kacmarik. If the temperature plummets that much, she said, it will tie the record low for that day set in 1893.

On top of that, a steady breeze will make it seem even colder.

"It will definitely feel like the 20s," Kacmarik said, "if not lower."

It all starts to get here today. The high of 66 could drop to 50 before the sun sets.

The high on Tuesday, expected to be the coldest day this week, is forecast to reach only 47.

A hard freeze watch was issued from tonight through Tuesday morning for some northern counties, including Hernando, where "sub-freezing temperatures are possible" in cities like Spring Hill and Brooksville, according to the National Weather Service.

Residents were told to cover plants and bring in animals overnight.

A freeze watch also is in effect starting tonight in Pasco, Hernando and Hillsborough counties, where temperatures will linger between 29 and 32 degrees.

Cold weather shelters began opening in the region. Even in Pinellas County — the only county in the region not to be included in the Weather Service's freeze watches — shelters will open at 6 p.m. today and Tuesday to homeless people or those without heat in their homes. On both days, shelter visitors can eat a hot dinner and breakfast. Families will be put up in motels.

In northern Florida counties, 20- and 30-degree temperatures will likely pervade most the day Tuesday and part of Wednesday.

Cold and snow across the country these past few days have caused hundreds of flights coming to and leaving Tampa International Airport to be canceled or delayed.

On Sunday, the airport reported as of 4 p.m. that 14 flights were canceled and 125 were delayed.

In Tampa Bay, Wednesday should — for now — mark the end of the cold conditions, with temperatures warming to the 60s.

And then see-saw weather will start an ascent again. By Thursday and Friday, it will be in the mid to high 70s.

"That's kind of been the story," Kacmarik said — that "our cold won't last more than a couple days."

Blast of frigid air arrives in Tampa Bay this week 01/05/14 [Last modified: Sunday, January 5, 2014 10:43pm]
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