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5 things to know about cold weather across Tampa Bay this Gasparilla weekend

“Feels-like” temperatures are expected to dip below freezing for extended periods, and forecasters are even using the ‘f’ word — for frostbite.
It was short-sleeve weather the last time Tampa staged the annual Gasparilla Parade of Pirates in 2020.
It was short-sleeve weather the last time Tampa staged the annual Gasparilla Parade of Pirates in 2020. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Jan. 28|Updated Jan. 28

Get ready to cover your plants and bundle up, Tampa Bay: A blast of arctic air this weekend will bring the region its coldest temperatures in nearly four years .

Just how cold depends where you are.

Inland areas such as Land O’ Lakes, Dade City and Plant City are expected to dip into the mid-20s on Saturday night into Sunday morning, while St. Petersburg and Clearwater — thanks to moderating warmth from the Gulf of Mexico — will hit the mid-30s, the National Weather Service said.

No matter where you are, though, expect low temperatures as much as 25 degrees lower than normal for January.

Here are five things to know about the cold.

It’s no time for pirate gear

The city of Tampa hopes the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship will venture out alone for the annual pirate invasion Saturday. The water will be rough.
The city of Tampa hopes the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship will venture out alone for the annual pirate invasion Saturday. The water will be rough. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | TImes ]

Only the bold will be wearing fishnet stockings, pantaloons and tri-cornered hats. You can stay warm as well as nautical in, say, a pea coat and watch cap.

The forecast for Saturday has been lowered to a high of just 50. Paired with sustained winds of 15 to 30 mph, the air will feel like the low 40s during the Parade of Pirates, which starts at 2 p.m.

Come Sunday morning, bitter cold is expected. The Weather Service has issued a wind chill advisory, saying Tampa’s “feels-like” temperature could remain below freezing until 10 a.m. and possibly later.

Conditions on the water won’t be so inviting, either. The Weather Service has issued a small-craft advisory for the weekend with high winds and choppy waters expected to create dangerous conditions for boaters who may be thinking of joining the voyage of the flagship Jose Gasparilla.

The city of Tampa is pleading with those who still may be undecided: Settle for a vantage point on land this year.

After sticking to its guns at first, invasion organizers Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla relented later Friday and discouraged small boats from taking part in the flotilla at all.

“Additionally, anyone considering boating on parade day should monitor weather and small craft advisories,” krewe spokeswoman Jessica Eckley said in a news release.

What’s more, the Jose Gasparilla’s traditional route from Ballast Point north through Hillsborough Bay will change. The new route: up the Ybor Channel, around Harbour Island, and into Seddon Channel. Their destination remains the same: the Tampa Convention Center, where Mayor Jane Castor is scheduled to surrender the key to city at 1 p.m.

If you got it, wear it

This is the weekend for your heaviest winter gear, whether you head to Pass-a-Grille like these beach-goers in December 2020 or anywhere across Tampa Bay.
This is the weekend for your heaviest winter gear, whether you head to Pass-a-Grille like these beach-goers in December 2020 or anywhere across Tampa Bay. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]

This is the time to pull out that seldom-used cold-weather gear, the heaviest you have.

“Several layers and a heavy winter coat will be needed this weekend,” Spectrum Bay News 9 Meteorologist Juli Marquez said Friday.

With these conditions, you could experience frostbite — frostbite! — if your skin is exposed for too long.

The Weather Service said frostbite can occur within 25 minutes on exposed skin when outside temperatures are below 35 degrees and the wind reaches 15 mph. Both are expected this weekend.

If you’re going out, don’t forget the gloves and beanie. You’ll first feel the cold in your hands. Maybe consider dropping $6 for some air-activated hand warmers.

Your plants need attention, too

Strawberry growers take special measures when a sustained freeze is forecast. So should others who have plants.
Strawberry growers take special measures when a sustained freeze is forecast. So should others who have plants.

People aren’t the only organisms in Florida unaccustomed to the cold. Plants and bushes that are cold-sensitive may need some bundling up, too, this weekend. A freeze watch has been issued for all of Tampa Bay overnight Saturday.

Healthy ornamental plants can withstand cold temperatures much better than neglected ones, but they still should be covered by sheets, blankets, or anything else that’s available, the University of Florida said on its list of suggestions.

If a plant is too large to cover up with a blanket, try to wrap the trunk with layers of cloth or newspaper. Potted plants can be moved indoors.

Once the freeze passes, uncover plants immediately. That will probably be Sunday afternoon across Tampa Bay.

There’s shelter for those who need it

The Boys and Girls Club of Tarpon Springs is open for those who need shelter from the cold, as it was in January 2020 when temperatures dropped to 36.
The Boys and Girls Club of Tarpon Springs is open for those who need shelter from the cold, as it was in January 2020 when temperatures dropped to 36. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | TImes ]

PINELLAS COUNTY

Open evenings and early mornings through the weekend 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., unless noted. Masks required

Tarpon Springs

Boys and Girls Club of Tarpon Springs, 111 W Lime St.

Clearwater

The Refuge Outreach Church, 606 Alden Ave.

First United Methodist Church of Clearwater, 411 Turner St.

Pinellas Park

Boys & Girls Club of the Suncoast in Pinellas Park, 7790 61st St. N.

St. Petersburg

Northwest Presbyterian Church, 6330 54th Ave.

Salvation Army, 1400 4th St. S. Hours: 7 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.

The Turning Point, 1810 5th Ave. N.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY

Two shelters are open for adults at 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Masks are required and meals will be served.

Tampa

The Portico, 1001 N. Florida Ave.

Amazing Love Ministries, 3304 E. Columbus Dr., Tampa

Some motel vouchers will be available by calling 813-209-1176

PASCO COUNTY

Shelters will be open Saturday and Sunday nights in east and west Pasco. For information, call the Coalition for the Homeless of Pasco County at 727-842-8605 between noon and 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Colder than usual, but not THAT cold

While Tampa Bay will be actually freezing this weekend, the temperatures aren’t expected to approach the record low set Dec. 13, 1962.

Tampa got as cold as 18 degrees that day and never got warmer than 44. The same day, St. Petersburg saw the temperature dip as low as 22 and never eclipse 42.

These records have stood for five decades.

This weekend will be the coldest since 2018 when Tampa reached 29 degrees, said meteorologist Grant Gilmore with WTSP, Ch. 10. It was the only time Tampa recorded a temperature below freezing during the past decade.

The temperatures in Tampa during 2020 and 2021 never dipped below 40.

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