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Freezing weather descends on Tampa Bay, but relief is in sight

Tampa Bay residents woke up to freezing weather and near-record temperatures early Tuesday as one of the coldest Decembers on record continued to get colder.

Many cars were blanketed in a thin layer of frost. Storm drains steamed.

"From a widespread standpoint, this is the coldest weather we've had this month," said Bay News 9 meteorologist Josh Linker.

Plant City dropped down to 26, besting the previous record of 28 set back in 1935. Records were also set in Inverness and at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.

Other cities around Tampa Bay were expected to best previous records, but numbers were not immediately available Tuesday morning.

Brooksville dropped to 15 degrees early Tuesday. Wesley Chapel saw 23.

Parts of Hillsborough County — including Lutz, Brandon and MacDill Airforce Base — saw temperatures drop into the mid to high 20s.

Pinellas County saw temperatures in the 30s and 40s, with some of the lowest readings coming in Pinellas Park at 30 degrees, Linker said.

Overall, temperatures were about 20 degrees below normal, he said.

It should warm up during the day to the mid 50s before dropping to freezing in some parts of Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, he said.

Linker said Wednesday morning won't be quite as cold as Tuesday morning — probably about 5 or 6 degrees warmer.

This cold snap will end Wednesday, with temperatures in the 60s. The rest of the week should be in the 70s, Linker said. "I don't see another cold outbreak," he said.

The hours of freezing weather overnight Monday meant farmers were up all night protecting crops.

George Casey, who grows small fruits southwest of Brooksville, said he saw some of the lowest temperatures so far this winter.

The mercury at his farm dropped to about 17 degrees overnight and stayed below freezing for several hours, he said.

Casey, who grows blueberries and strawberries, turned his sprinklers on at 7:30 p.m. Monday to protect his crops. "What it hurts now was any new blossoms," he said.

He said he won't know the damage to his strawberries for three to five days. His blueberries won't be affected because they won't blossom for another couple of months.

Meteorologists expect this December to be one of the coldest on record.

Through Monday, Tampa and St. Petersburg recorded the coldest starts to the month ever.

Tampa had an average of 53 degrees, besting the previous record of 54.1 set in 1910. St. Petersburg's average of 56.2 beat the previous record of 56.9 set in 1935.

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Freezing weather descends on Tampa Bay, but relief is in sight 12/28/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 11:20am]
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