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Chilly spell is brief relief

Don't get attached to the chilly weather. It's about to leave town. During its stay, the cool weather has reduced power consumption by more than a third as people turned their air conditioners off. It has granted a brief respite from the threat of mosquito-borne encephalitis. It also has ended a streak of 90-degree days.

"My wife threw a blanket on the bed and pulled it all the way up to her neck," National Weather Service forecaster Ron Humble said.

But temperatures will begin to climb today, warming such weekend events as Ybor City's annual Guavaween celebration, the John's Pass Seafood Festival and the Hernando County Cattlemen's Association's annual rodeo.

Temperatures are expected to reach the mid-70s today and climb into the 80s Sunday.

The cool spell broke no records in the Tampa Bay area, but it did in South Florida. The temperature dipped to 57 degrees Friday morning in Miami Beach, four degrees lower than the 1943 record of 61. The low of 52 in Fort Myers was two degrees colder than the record set in 1982.

The low Friday morning at Tampa International Airport was 49. The mercury was expected to dip a little lower early this morning before temperatures begin their steady climb.

Tampa Bay area residents gratefully turned off their air-conditioning after enduring 14 days in the 90s this month. Florida Power Corp. spokeswoman Karen Raihill said power consumption Friday was 35 to 40 percent less than before the cool weather arrived.

"We've been able to turn off all our oil-burning power plants," she said. "In light of the Mideast crisis, that's good news."