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Expect wintry feel in Hernando for a couple of days

BROOKSVILLE — Time to prepare extra pots of broccoli and cheese soup, bring in those iguanas and bundle up tight for the night.

Hernando County and the rest of the Nature Coast are about to endure their first bout of wintry weather.

The National Weather Service is predicting lows in the upper 20s this morning and Wednesday morning, the chilly temperatures a remnant of a cold front that swept through the Tampa Bay area over the weekend.

Temperatures should rebound into the 60s during the daytime, and by Thursday residents can again trade winter coats for T-shirts.

"It's the first winter blast that we've recorded this season," said Anthony Reynes, a meteorologist with the National Weather service in Ruskin. "But this isn't something we'd consider out of the ordinary for mid November. This is the time to have these cold fronts."

At the Rising Sun Cafe in downtown Brooksville, employee Gail Witek said a steady stream of customers came in for hot bowls of soup on Monday. Broccoli and cheese is served on Mondays and Thursdays, French onion on Tuesdays and Fridays, and baked potato on Wednesday.

"We're always prepared," Witek said. "We don't like to run out."

Kathy Oleson, owner of Boyett's Grove in Spring Lake, said she wasn't expecting enough of a chill to damage any of her crops. However, the iguanas, birds and monkeys that populate the property must be brought in at night to escape the cold.

There's also a bright side to the brief brush with cold for Oleson: The chill combines with the ethylene in the fruit to make the oranges more orange and the grapefruits more yellow.

"It makes the fruit really pretty," Oleson said.

County officials didn't have plans to open a shelter as a result of the brief cold snap but noted that Jericho Road Ministries in Brooksville would be available for those seeking refuge.

Reynes advised residents to simply stay out of the cold, bring in pets and sensitive plants for the night, and beware of starting fires in these dry conditions.

"We have very, very good conditions for wildfires to start," Reynes said. "It's important for people to not start fires outside for the next two or three days."

Joel Anderson can be reached at joelanderson@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6120.

fast facts

How to protect yourself, pipes and plants

During the cold snap, residents are urged to protect themselves, as well as their pets, vegetation and pipes, from the freezing weather. Here is some advice from the experts:

Protecting yourself: For anyone who is outdoors for an extended period of time, the National Weather Service recommends that they wear extra layers of clothing. People using space heaters are reminded that the heaters can be fire hazards. Keep linens, blankets, curtains and other flammable materials away from them.

Protecting pipes: To prevent freezing and possible bursting, the weather service recommends that outdoor pipes be wrapped, drained or allowed to drip slowly. Homeowners with in-ground sprinkler systems should drain the systems or cover any above-ground pipes to protect them from freezing.

Protecting plants: John Korycki, coordinator of the Florida Yards & Neighborhoods program for the Hernando County Cooperative Extension Service, has these tips for plants:

• If covering plants, try to avoid using plastics, which transfer cold easily and can burn the leaves. Make sure that covers extend to the ground, and that there is as little contact as possible with the foliage.

• Avoid pruning or fertilizing plants at this time of the year because those practices stimulate new growth. New growth is the most cold-sensitive part of the plant and can freeze easily.

• Avoid leaving covers on your plants for multiple days. Air flow is needed for plant health. If there are multiple cold nights, remove the covers during the day.

• Do not attempt to protect plants with water or ice. This practice is very complicated and not practical for home gardeners.

• Avoid taking immediate action if plants appear to have been affected by the cold. Leaf drop or yellowing does not necessarily mean that the plant has died.

Expect wintry feel in Hernando for a couple of days 11/17/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 18, 2008 8:37pm]

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