PINELLAS COUNTY – The National Weather issued a number of watches, warnings and advisories in association with the blast of cold air coming in from the north.
Cold dry air in place over west central and southwest Florida will allow for the potential for very cold temperatures tonight and early Thursday.
“Residents should be prepared for this cold weather event,” said officials with the Florida Division of Emergency Management. “Near record warmth and unseasonably humid conditions during the past weekend may worsen the effects of this arctic outbreak on tender vegetation. Remember to practice the "5 P's" of Cold Weather Safety. These 5 P's are: protecting people, pets, plants, pipes, and practicing fire safety.”
Wind chill temperatures are expected to fall into the teens as far south as central and southwest Florida from Wednesday night through Thursday morning. A wind chill advisory remains in effect from 7 p.m. Wednesday through Thursday morning.
The NWS said gusty northwest winds would continue over the area for the remainder of the day and even colder air will be in place tonight and Thursday morning.
Air temperature readings are expected to drop below 30 degrees by around 9 p.m. Dangerous wind chill readings, ranging between 10 and 20 degrees, are forecast to occur just before sunrise on Thursday
The NWS advised residents with outdoor plans tonight or Thursday morning to dress warmly.
“Several layers of clothing will insulate you better than a single coat or jacket,” the NWS said. “Residents should avoid being out for extended periods of time tonight through Thursday due to dangerously low wind chill values.”
Shelters open Wednesday night
Pinellas County’s cold weather shelters will be open on Wednesday night. People who need a warm place to stay can go to one of five shelters starting between 6 and 6:30 p.m. Guests will receive a hot evening meal and breakfast the next morning. The shelters close will close about 6 a.m.
For more information about the shelters, call Michael Amidei at 727-543-2600 or Cliff Smith at 727-464-8448.
A freeze watch is in effect from late tonight through the morning hours. A freeze watch is issued whenever there is a potential of a widespread and damaging freeze within 24 to 48 hours.
During the freeze period, temperature may remain between 27 and 32 degrees for more than three hours, the NWS said.
Residents should take steps to prevent freezing and possible bursting of outdoor water pipes. NWS officials recommend draining and wrapping pipes. People with in-ground sprinkler systems should drain the systems or cover the above-ground pipes to protect them from freezing. Because of the drought situation, allowing water to drip slowly to prevent freezing should be avoided if at all possible.
Officials also warn that the risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning increases during cold weather due to the improper use of heating devices.
“Never use propane or gas heaters indoors,” the NWS said. “Be sure that electric space heaters are free from obstructions and are not located where they can be knocked over. Keep all flammable objects away from heating devices.”
Sensitive plants also should be protected by covering them or moving them indoors.
Pets should not be left outdoors.
Lake wind advisory
A lake wind advisory remains in effect until 3 p.m. Wednesday. Gusty winds of 15 to 25 mph are expected today, leading to rough conditions on area ponds and lakes.
“Boaters and other water enthusiasts should expect hazardous conditions and avoid water activities today,” the NWS said.
A lake wind advisory is issued when sustained winds are forecast to be 20 to 29 mph for at least three hours.
“Winds of these magnitudes will create rough conditions on larger area lakes, which could produce damage to or flip small pleasure craft,” the NWS said.
High surf advisory
High surf advisory remains in effect until 1 p.m. Thursday. Strong north winds are expected to create seas of six feet near shore to 11 feet offshore. Surf of four to six feet can be expected along area beaches.
A high surf advisory is issued by the NWS when dangerous water action is expected along the coast, including rough surf, large breaking waves, rip currents and strong undertow.
Red flag warning
A red flag warning remains in effect through 7 p.m. Wednesday and residents are urged to use caution with all fires.
A red flag warning is issued whenever relative humidity is expected to remain below 35 percent for more than four hours and winds are greater than 15 mph.
A fire weather watch remains in effect from Thursday morning through Thursday afternoon.
Coastal flood impact
Persistent strong north to northwesterly winds will continue to build four to six foot waves that will impact coastal zones from Pinellas County southward, leading to minor beach erosion throughout the day.
The NWS said a warming trend was expected by late week. For the seven day forecast, visit Tampa Bay Newspaper’s online weather section.