Multiple areas in Tampa Bay surpassed or tied record low temperatures as bitter cold set into the region overnight, Bay News 9 meteorologist Juli Marquez said.
Temperatures bottomed out at 34 degrees in Tampa, one less than the previous low of 35 degrees set in 1960, Marquez said. Brooksville checked in at a frigid 24 degrees, beating its Feb. 20 low of 26 degrees set in 1923. St. Petersburg was just one degree above its record low of 39 degrees, set in 1958.
Most of Pinellas was in the 30s as of about 6:30 a.m., Marquez said, with northern cities like Tarpon Springs near freezing. New Port Richey was about 29 degrees, she said..
Forecasters had expected the coldest weather in Tampa Bay since January 2011. Freeze watches were in effect across the region until 9 a.m., according to the National Weather Service, and officials in both Pinellas and Hillsborough opened cold weather shelters for the homeless.
Kenneth Parker, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, said early Friday that temperatures around Plant City ranged from about 27 to 30 degrees. Growers were still spraying water on their crops about 7:45 a.m.
"No damage so far," Parker said. "It's still a little early to tell, but all indications are that we got by safe."
Further north, in Brooksville, Joan Casey of JG Ranch said they turned on water about 2:30 a.m. About 7 a.m., she said, it was 24 degrees in the field, where the Caseys grow strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. Unless a water line broke overnight, she said, they expected all crops to be fine.
Times staff writer Zack Peterson contributed to this report.