With temperatures expected to dip to near-freezing in several areas overnight, cold weather shelters are opening to the public and farmers are on alert.
Temperatures on Thursday were about 15 degrees cooler than usual for this time of year, according to Bay News 9 meteorologist Juli Marquez.
Chilly air was expected to persist all day, with highs generally in the 50s in the Tampa Bay region and overnight lows in the 30s or low 40s. Areas immediately north will see slightly colder temperatures.
The National Weather Service issued a freeze warning for much of the Tampa Bay area, including Hernando and Pasco Counties and inland areas of Hillsborough County.
Coastal areas generally remain warmer because of water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, which this week are running from the upper 50s to the mid-60s.
The forecast will be similar though slightly warmer on Friday night and early Saturday morning.
Forecasters are advising the usual precautions, including covering plants and bringing small animals inside.
Farmers also are keeping close watch on weather in case they need to spray fruit with water to form a protective layer on insulation.
"Right now we are staying on our usual schedule but were checking to make sure our irrigation is ready to go in case we need to spray,'' said Matt Parke of Parkesdale Farms in Hillsborough County.
Exactly how cold it gets also will determine whether some cold-weather shelters open.
Pinellas County officials said early Thursday temperatures were not yet predicted to be low enough to prompt shelters there to open.
"Forty or below is where we do it," Sarah Snyder said.
Cold weather shelters in Hillsborough would remain open through Saturday for the homeless and those without adequate heat.
Shelter locations are as follows:
• Brandon Community Center, 510 E Sadie St., Brandon. Opens at 6 p.m. for homeless individuals and families with children. Phone: (813) 635-8179.
• Metropolitan Ministries, 2010 N Florida Ave., Tampa. Opens at 4 p.m. for families. Phone: (813) 209-1077.
• Salvation Army, 1514 N Florida Ave., Tampa. Opens at 4 p.m. for adults. Phone: (813) 221-4440.
• Jackson Springs Recreation Center, 8620 Jackson Springs Road, Town 'N Country. Opens at 6:30 p.m. for adults and families. Phone (813) 554-5064.
• Wimauma Community Center, 5705 Hillsborough St., Wimauma. Opens at 6 p.m. for adults and families. Phone: (813) 635-3500.
The cold also has led to the opening of several cold-weather shelters in west Pasco County.
The Pasco shelters are:
• Community Congregational Church, 6533 Circle Drive,New Port Richey. For adults only. Phone: (727)-597-0428
• The Holy Ground Shelter, 8835 Denton Avenue, Hudson. Adults and families accepted.
• Families with children ONLY are asked to contact Dan Campbell with Metropolitan Ministries, Phone: (727)-385-4170
• In East Pasco, contact The Samaritan Project, Phone: (813)-810-8670