Paradegoers will have to contend with a blast of Arctic air headed to the Tampa Bay area this weekend as Gasparilla festivities kick off.
Forecasters said on Friday that there’s a strong likelihood they will issue a wind chill advisory and may consider a freeze watch overnight Saturday. Rough seas could also trigger hazardous boating conditions until Monday.
A cold front, trailed by an air mass from polar latitudes, was ushered in on Friday and will linger through the weekend.
Temperatures on Saturday night and into Sunday morning will feel the most frigid.
Forecasters expect temperatures to bottom out in the low 40s Saturday morning in Hillsborough County, though the wind chill could make it feel more like it’s in the high 30s.
By the afternoon, temperatures will only warm to a high of about 58 degrees — far below the normal afternoon high in the 70s this time of year, said Ross Giarratana, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Tampa Bay office.
While the strong El Niño pattern this season isn’t fully to blame for this abnormally chilly weather, it does play a role in the frequency of winter cold fronts, he added.
Parents and kids attending the Children’s Gasparilla Parade, which kicks off Saturday morning, should be spared the worst of the icy weather, Giarratana said.
“It won’t be the coldest day of the weekend because I do think Sunday morning will be even colder,” he said.
The wind chill will make the feels-like temperatures drop to the upper 20s in Hillsborough County Sunday morning. It will be even colder in northern and inland counties. Pasco and Hernando counties, for instance, could see at-or-below freezing temperatures and even colder wind chills.
Some good news: The frigid air won’t last long enough to put a damper on the following weekend’s main event, the Gasparilla Pirate Fest, Giarratana said.
“The weekend will be below normal, but then we’re pretty much getting right back to normal by early next week,” he said.
The Spectrum Bay News 9 7-day forecast shows high temperatures reaching the mid-70s by Tuesday and even 80 by Thursday.
In the meantime, Giarratana said locals and visitors should bundle up and protect themselves from the elements during the weekend’s cold snap.
“We’re colder than normal for this time of the year,” Giarratana said. “So we just encourage people to take steps that they need to just stay warm when they’re outside and try to enjoy the Gasparilla festivities.”