Tampa Bay cold front to deliver chilliest days of season

We're headed for an even chillier start to the week in the Tampa Bay area, with bitter winds and gray skies that will make falling temperatures feel like some of the coldest yet, forecasters say.

The chill arrives as a cold front, and scattered showers move across the area today, followed by a band of cold Canadian high pressure, according to the National Weather Service.

Today's high is expected to be 63, with a 50 percent chance of rain and northwest winds at 20 to 30 mph.

The real pain will begin tonight, when the temperatures drop to the low 40s, said Bay News 9 meteorologist Brian McClure. Come Monday morning, temperatures are not expected to rise above the upper 40s.

"It will feel colder than that. It will be the coldest day we have seen this winter," McClure said. "What you're looking at is basically a raw day, cloudy, cold, rainy. We might even see a few sprinkles."

Then it will get worse.

Overnight Monday into Tuesday morning there will be a hard freeze in much of the region, with a wind chill advisory and temperatures in the low 20s in Hernando, Hillsborough and Pasco counties.

For farmers in eastern Hillsborough County, the repeated chills are delaying harvests.

"The berries just won't ripen up," said strawberry farmer Carl Grooms, owner of Fancy Farms in Plant City.

The back-to-back cold weeks are pushing back production "way, way off from what it should be," he said. Instead of harvesting a bulk of red berries before Christmas, he'll be watching the thermometers closely into Monday night.

Most of Pinellas will stay in the lower 30s, but some northern pockets may feel just as cold, McClure said.

Pinellas County will open its 10 cold shelters tonight and keep them open through Tuesday night, said cold shelter coordinator Michael Amidei. Pasco also will open its cold shelter tonight. Hillsborough shelter managers were still waiting for word Saturday on when they would open.

On Tuesday, the sun returns and daytime temps should inch up to the low 50s, but the cold nights will linger. We may not see 70 degrees again until Friday, McClure said.

Times staff writer Stephanie Wang contributed to this report.

Tampa Bay cold front to deliver chilliest days of season 12/11/10 [Last modified: Saturday, December 11, 2010 9:40pm]

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