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Tampa hits 90 degrees for the first time in 2021, and does so early

The average high in March is supposed to be 76. But Saturday set a new daily record for heat.
Jannel Villalba, 19 a pre-med student enjoys the warm temperatures while studying in her hammock at the University of Tampa along the Hillsborough River on Thursday.
Jannel Villalba, 19 a pre-med student enjoys the warm temperatures while studying in her hammock at the University of Tampa along the Hillsborough River on Thursday. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Mar. 28
Updated Mar. 28

If you thought Saturday was hot, well, it wasn’t just the heat getting to you.

Actually, it was the heat. It was so scorching the mercury within Tampa International Airport’s official thermometer reached 90 degrees for the first time this year, said National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Oglesby of the Ruskin office.

That was hot enough to set a new daily record for Tampa, replacing the previous high of 89 from last March 27.

Inland cities throughout the region — such as Zephyrhills and Plant City — have eclipsed 90 every day since Thursday, records show, but never got hot enough to break their daily records.

The region on Saturday was significantly warmer than usual, Oglesby said, though no other records were broken. By comparison, the average high for this time of year in Tampa is a cool 76.

Related: Mid-90s in March? Parts of Tampa Bay broke heat records Thursday

Reaching 90 degrees this early in the year is extremely rare for Tampa, Oglesby said, but isn’t unprecedented. The earliest the Cigar City has ever reached that temperature was March 16, 1945.

While Saturday was scorching for March, it’s still somewhat cooler than compared to what awaits Tampa this summer. The daily heat record is 99 degrees, which was set at Tampa International Airport on two days in the past 35 years. Those dates: June 5, 1985, and June 26, 2020.

For those skeptical of the official temperature readings because of electronic thermometers inside cars and outside businesses, Oglesby has an explanation.

“A lot of times the sensors that take the temperature are over pavement,” he said. “Then the heat from the pavement radiates back up over the sensors, making them unreliable, almost always making them read as being too warm. Either way, it’s been hot out there.”