A freeze guide for Floridians: How to prepare for this weekend

Most of the Tampa Bay area is under a freeze warning for this weekend. Here’s a look at how to prepare for the frigid temperatures.
Strawberries seen on a farm in Plant City on a cold day in January. Temperatures across the Tampa Bay area are expected to plunge below freezing over the Christmas weekend, according to the National Weather Service.
Strawberries seen on a farm in Plant City on a cold day in January. Temperatures across the Tampa Bay area are expected to plunge below freezing over the Christmas weekend, according to the National Weather Service. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Dec. 23, 2022|Updated Dec. 23, 2022

“Florida” and “freezing” are not two words usually put together in a sentence. But here we are.

On Saturday and Sunday, freezing temperatures are expected across the Tampa Bay area. Freeze warnings are in place for Saturday morning and nearly all of Florida is under a wind chill advisory for Saturday morning when the feels-like temperature could plunge to 20 degrees.

Paul Close, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Tampa Bay office, said it has been about 12 years since the last time Tampa Bay had temperatures this low for such an extended period of time.

Related: Some flights canceled, delayed at Tampa International as massive storm grips US

“In winter it happens a couple times at most, but not for like three or four days,” Close said. “Freezing temperatures are expected even through Sunday night, Monday morning.”

In areas to the north, like Brooksville, early-morning freezing temperatures could stick around until Tuesday, Close said.

But how do we — true Floridians with an allergy to cold — deal with the freezing temperatures?

Here’s a guide on what to know for the next few days.

How do I stay warm?

In freezing temperatures, the National Weather Service suggests limiting time spent outdoors. Additionally, you should bundle up. That means, yes, you can wear those Uggs and no one can judge you. It’s for safety.

The National Weather Service has a formula for calculating wind chill that’s used to understand the risk of frostbite or hypothermia in cold weather. Wind chill can cause the temperature to feel colder than it actually is because when wind blows across exposed skin, it snatches up the heat we naturally give off and blows it from our bodies. Wind chill effects only humans and pets whose skin is directly exposed to the air.

Speaking of pets, you should bring them indoors or give them a warm place to stay during the cold snap. They, like us, are susceptible to freezing temperatures.

If you are looking for a warm place to stay, cold-weather shelters across the area have opened up for the holiday weekend. Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough Counties all will have open shelters this weekend.

What to do with my plants?

If you have plants in a container, move them inside. If you have to leave them outside, push them together with other plants and protect them with mulch to lower heat loss, according to an article from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences department.

According to the article, heat radiates from the soil during the night and is lost to the air unless it’s trapped. You can protect plant roots and reduce heat loss by adding more mulch around plants.

Covering your plants really only protects them more from frost rather than from freezing weather, the article said. The article suggests using cloth sheets and quilts — and warns against using plastic. Plastic can steal heat away from the plant, it said.

To learn more about how to care for you plants after a freeze click here.

What about my pipes?

Water expands when it freezes and puts a lot of pressure on whatever is containing it. Expanding water can cause pipes to break, according to the Red Cross.

The Red Cross has an entire guide on how to protect your pipes from freezing. The Red Cross recommends you drain pipes from your outdoor water supplies, like sprinklers. You should also remove, drain and store hoses typically used outside.

If you have a water supply in your garage, you should close your garage doors, the Red Cross said. For the entire guide, including how to thaw frozen pipes, click here.

“Exposed pipes — make sure they’re protected, that they’re covered,” Close said. “A lot of places around here have pipes outside and they’re exposed to the cold.”

Space heater safety

In Florida, not all homes have heat. If you choose to use a space heater, Close said, make sure it’s at least three feet away from objects or furniture.

The space heater should be on a level, hard, nonflammable surface. And before you go to bed, make sure you turn off the space heater.

Corey Dierdorff, a public information officer for Pasco County Fire Rescue, said to make sure not to plug in a space heater to a power strip because that can cause a fire.

Diedorff said people sometimes will turn on a stove and leave the door open. He said that’s extremely dangerous and he advises against it.

“It’s crazy because our houses aren’t built for this stuff; people get cold,” Dierdorff said. “Our best advice is not what people want to hear. But it’s to layer up a little bit and realize that your homes are going to be a little cold for the next couple of days.”