Plants, shrubs and even small trees were covered up as a cold front created winter-like conditions around the Tampa Bay area. Pictured is the shrubbery in front of Pinellas Park City Hall.
PINELLAS COUNTY – The National Weather Service issued a freeze warning in effect from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Thursday as the coldest air of the season filters into Pinellas County.
The lake wind advisory, which expired at 3 p.m., also was extended through 7 a.m. on Thursday.
NWS officials said much colder and drier air is continuing to move into west central and southwest Florida on a brisk northwest to northerly wind flow. Temperatures are expected to fall quickly tonight after sunset with temperatures bottoming out in the lower 30s by early morning in areas located away from the coast. Forecasters said residents should expect two to four hours of subfreezing temperatures.
“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 warning remains in effect from 7 p.m. Wednesday through 9 a.m. on Thursday.
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.
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
The lake wind advisory was extended until 7 a.m. Thursday. Gusty winds of 15 to 25 mph are expected, 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 has been extended until 10 a.m. Friday. 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.
Small craft advisory
A small craft advisory remains in effect through Friday morning. Sustained winds of 20 to 30 knots with occasional gale force gusts are expected in Gulf waters between 20 and 60 nautical miles offshore with nine to 12 foot waves expected. Near shore water will experince 20 to 30 knoth winds; however, gusts should remain below gale force, the NWS said.
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.