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Bundle up as temperatures go way down

If you thought last week was frigid, get ready for even colder weather this week.

The coldest temperatures of the season are expected in the Tampa Bay area tonight.

A freeze watch will take effect for Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties, while inland Hillsborough County could see lows bottom out in the 30s. Coastal areas likely will dip into the 40s.

But could it be cold enough to snow?

"There's a very, very, very slight off chance of snow flurries," said National Weather Service meteorologist Jennifer Colson. "It would most likely occur in the overnight hours, if it happens at all."

The last time the Tampa Bay area had snow was 1989. The last time it stuck to the ground was Jan. 19, 1977, when the temperature sunk to 27.

A cold front sweeping into the area today will keep high temperatures in the 50s. When the sun goes down tonight, the mercury will plummet.

"The next couple of days will actually be colder than last week," said Bay News 9 meteorologist Josh Linker. "It won't warm up at all (today)."

Forecasters expect Wednesday to be even colder, with temperatures plunging below 30 in some areas.

The high Thursday should creep into the 60s, and by Friday highs are expected to peak at about 70. Weekend highs are expected in the low 70s, which is about normal.

Until the warmup, Tampa Bay area residents should cover their plants and keep pets inside, forecasters said. Officials also are advising the homeless to head to shelters.

Local nurseries said they advise people to use fabric rather than plastic to cover plants.

"If you cover them with plastic … it'll lose the insulation," said Scott Geisler, a worker at Willow Tree Nursery in St. Petersburg.

Old sheets, blankets and even cardboard boxes will work fine, he said.

Directly spraying plants with water to create a layer of ice, as is done with strawberries, is more harmful than helpful, he said. Watering the grass, however, could actually help the ground stay warmer throughout the night.

"If the ground is dry, it's full of air, and it cools off faster," Geisler said.

Bundle up as temperatures go way down 01/19/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 22, 2009 9:36am]
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