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It was cold last night but worst yet to come Sunday night

The freeze of 2010 has approached record-setting levels with the worst yet to come Sunday night.

The cold assault on Florida continued Saturday night with reported lows of 21 in Lecanto, 22 in Weeki Wachee, 19 in New Port Richey, 26 in Wesley Chapel, 28 in Brandon, 33 near the Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg and 29 at Tampa International Airport.

The temperatures will rise throughout Sunday but will top out between 48 and 50 degrees, Bay News 9 Meteorologist Diane Kacmarik said.

The worst of the longest cold stretch in recent memory comes tonight when forecasters are predicting a low of 25 in Tampa and St. Petersburg caused by clear skies and little wind, allowing the arctic mass of cold air that has invaded our area to settle in.

Sunday night into Monday, skies will remain mostly clear and winds will diminish as a high pressure settles over the lower Mississippi Valley, according to the National Weather Service, setting the stage for a freeze across most of Tampa Bay.

"Temperatures tonight will be some of the coldest we have seen so far this winter with readings expected to fall into the teens across inland portions of the Nature Coast and 20s elsewhere," National Weather Service forecasters said in a statement. "The only areas that may escape the freezing temperatures will be along the immediate coast and other bay and inland water ways from Tampa Bay south."

While these temperatures aren't unusual for our area this time of year, the National Weather Service said the duration of the cold snap — now over a week — has reached "record criteria" for Tampa and St. Petersburg.

Since Jan. 1, temperatures haven't risen above 60 degrees.

"With a few more days of cool weather expected," National Weather Service forecasters said, "we may see more records broken."

Since Jan. 2, temperatures have been running 10 to 30 degrees below normal and forecasted temperatures are expected to remain the same through Wednesday.

Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or jgeorge@sptimes.com.

It was cold last night but worst yet to come Sunday night 01/10/10 [Last modified: Sunday, January 10, 2010 2:40pm]
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