Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hard freeze in Tampa Bay area forecast for next two nights

It's not just cold.

It's cover-your-plants, bring-your-pets-in, stay-off-the-boats, don't-burn-your-house-down cold.

Hard freezes are expected this morning and Wednesday as severe cold settles into the Tampa Bay area, dropping temperatures into the 20s and 30s, putting farmers on alert and opening cold weather shelters.

Gov. Charlie Crist declared a state of emergency Monday because of the threat to the state's agricultural products.

Low temperatures this morning are expected to be in the 20s in most of the Tampa Bay area and the teens as far south as Hernando County. Even parts of Pinellas County, surrounded by warmer waters from the Gulf of Mexico, could see temperatures in the 20s.

In Florida, it's easy to forget what this kind of cold feels like, or what the basic precautions are. Meteorologists and county and fire officials have been issuing warnings all weekend, hoping to spread the word to the unprepared.

"With this kind of cold, people need to employ basic safety measures,'' said Jennifer McNatt, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin. "Pets should be brought inside, plants need to be protected and people need to make sure heating devices are being used properly.''

Farmers are on high alert over predictions of a hard freeze, which occurs when temperatures drop to 27 degrees or below for at least three hours. While citrus may be hardy enough to weather the cold, strawberry and vegetable farmers have greater concerns.

"It's never been this bad this early in the season,'' said vegetable grower J.R. Holman of J.R. Farms in Zephyrhills.

The lows are likely to threaten or break temperature records at several locations around west-central Florida. The record low for Dec. 14 at Tampa International Airport is 27 degrees, set in 1962.

With the coldest weather still en route, Monday began ominously enough, with scattered rain and temperatures dipping into the 30s and 40s. The biggest culprit, however, was the wind.

Gusts approaching 40 mph were reported in several locations, a problem for motorists, particularly on bridges. There were several reports of holiday decorations and traffic cones being blown into roads, creating another driving hazard.

Strong winds whipping up tall waves kept five boats, including a cruise ship, waiting since early Monday to pass the Sunshine Skyway bridge.

The first ship in line had been waiting since 1 a.m. Monday near Egmont Key, 9 miles out from the bridge, and the vessels sat in limbo until winds dropped from 20 knots to at least 15, said Bridgett Wells, a search and rescue controller for the Coast Guard.

Officials feared the 10-foot waves and 30-knot gusts could slam a boat into the concrete, Wells said.

It was no picnic for cruise lines, either.

Geraldine Murphy, a snowbird who winters in Port Richey, said her brother, Richard Lane, was on the Carnival Inspiration cruise ship scheduled to dock Monday morning at Port of Tampa.

He called before 3 p.m. to tell her the captain had announced they were stuck. The ship finally made it into the Port of Tampa Monday night.

Beyond those issues, the Hills­borough County Public Works Department issued a warning Monday saying drivers could encounter black ice on roadways near agricultural irrigation during the freeze.

As the Tampa Bay region girds itself for the latest bout of cold, some residents are still reeling from the last time we saw these conditions.

The region still is showing signs of damage from the record stretch of freezing temperatures that happened late last winter, when grass, plants and even some trees succumbed to the cold.

Fortunately, most Florida plants are "root hardy," meaning they come back, said Marina D'Abreau, a residential horticultural agent for the University of Florida extension services for Hillsborough County.

"Sometimes plants need to go down, and when they come back, they're more resilient and healthy," she said.

Still, people should bring their plants in if they can, or cover them with cloth all the way to the ground. Strings of Christmas lights — "the cheapy, traditional kind, not the LED ones," D'Abreau said — also help create warmth underneath the coverings.

In a windy cold like this, though, it's very hard to keep plants warm, she said, even with coverings.

In a freeze with little or no wind, coverings can help trap radiant heat around the plants. But with the strong winds in this cold front, she said, that heat just blows away.

Emily Nipps can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8452.

Hard freeze in Tampa Bay area forecast for next two nights 12/13/10 [Last modified: Monday, December 13, 2010 11:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Forecast: Break out those sweaters, Tampa Bay, as cooler weather just a day away

    Weather

    Tampa Bay residents will finally be able to break out their sweaters and boots this week, but not until enduring yet another humid, rainy day to start the workweek.

    Tampa Bay's 7-day forecast. [WTSP]
  2. Justin Timberlake in Super Bowl halftime show for first time since 'wardrobe malfunction'

    Celebrities

    Justin Timberlake has finally been invited back to the Super Bowl halftime show, 14 years after the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson caused a national controversy.

    Singer Janet Jackson covers her breast as Justin Timberlake holds part of her costume after her outfit came undone during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston in 2004. The NFL announced Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, that Timberlake will headline the Super Bowl halftime show Feb. 4 in Minnesota, 14 years after the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson cause a national controversy. [Associated Press]
  3. Here's what happened when 30 high school sophomores gave up their phones for a day

    K12

    LUTZ — They were everywhere at Steinbrenner High School. Teens with panic-stricken faces, furiously slapping one thigh, then the other.

    Grace Hayes, 15, left, and Kai'Rey Lewis, 15, talk and text friends after having a discussion about smartphone technology in Tiffany Southwell's English Literature class at Steinbrenner High last week. Southwell asked theme to give up their phones for a day and write about it. For Lewis, the ride home that day "was the longest bus ride in my life." [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. Cuban media treats visit by Tampa City Council as historic event

    Politics

    TAMPA — Delegations of one kind or another have been traveling from Tampa to Cuba for years, even before President Barack Obama took steps to normalize relations between the two countries in December 2014.

    A Tampa delegation to Cuba this week was featured prominently in reports by the state-run media in Cuba, including Granma. From left are Tampa City Council vice chair Harry Cohen, St. Petersburg City Council Chair Darden Rice, Tampa philanthropist David Straz and Tampa City Council Chair Yolie Capin.
  5. As the curtain rises on the Straz Center's biggest shows, the spotlight is on parking

    Transportation

    TAMPA — The Broadway Series, the most lucrative shows of the year for the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, start this week, and this year the center wants all the drama to take place on stage, not during the drive to the theater.

    With downtown Tampa getting busier at night and on weekends, city officials and administrators from the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts have been working on ways to unsnarl traffic and help visitors find parking when there are lots of events at the same time. CHRIS ZUPPA   |   Times (2009)