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Tampa Bay’s 2020 gift: The coldest Christmas in two decades

A cold front rolling in could bring the coldest Christmas Day in nearly two decades. But it will also mean Christmas Eve thundershowers.

Tampa Bay, it’s cold outside — for once.

A cold front coming in from the Midwest could gift the region with its coldest Christmas Day in nearly two decades.

The forecasted high for Friday is 58 degrees and the low will be in the 30s. The last time Tampa Bay enjoyed a Christmas Day that was actually cold (by Florida standards) was in 2001, when the high was exactly 58 degrees.

The last few Christmases have been pretty warm. Last year’s high for Dec. 25 was 81 degrees. In fact, the average high from 2015-18 was a toasty 80, according to the National Weather Service’s database.

Most bay area Christmases see high temperatures in the 80s, 70s and 60s — but rarely in the 50s. The average Christmas Day high is 71 degrees and the low is 58, according to an analysis of Christmas Day weather by Spectrum Bay News 9 meteorologist Brian McClure.

“That cold front will set us up for some considerably colder weather on Christmas Day and last through the weekend,” said Bay News 9 meteorologist Josh Linker.

The lows will drop into the 30s in the northern bay area, while the lows for Hillsborough and Pinellas counties should hover around the mid-40s. The weather service projects it will get as cold as 35 at Tampa International Airport on Friday night.

Related: Remember when it snowed in the Tampa Bay area?

But it wouldn’t be 2020 without bad news: Christmas Eve will see thundershowers roll in Thursday with an 80 percent chance of rain. So factor that into any last-minute shopping or entertainment plans (while maintaining the proper mask and socially distancing protocols, of course.)

The coldest Christmas in Tampa Bay history was Dec. 25, 1983. The high was a brisk 38 and the mercury in thermometers dropped to a low of 20 degrees at Tampa International Airport.

Friday will be the first full day of the cold front, and things will get even colder from there.

Related: In 1989, it snowed in St. Petersburg. It led to a family reunion.

Linker predicts temperatures will dip below freezing in parts of the region early on Saturday. That is when the weather service projects Brooksville’s temperature will get as cold as 28 degrees, Lakeland at 33 and Tampa as cold as 37. St. Petersburg is expected to stay above 40.

“There’ll be really cold stuff out there by Saturday morning,” said Linker. “Residents should plan now for that big change.”

The region will begin to slowly warm up again on Sunday and Monday, the meteorologist said. But highs to start the week will remain around 70 degrees, which is slightly below our average for the end of December, and lows will remain right at 50.