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Frigid blast headed for Florida


Editor’s note: This article is from AccuWeather.

A southward plunge of Arctic air will reach all the way down into Florida, sending temperatures in the Sunshine State tumbling to the lowest levels in years there.

AccuWeather forecasters warn that both crops and decades-old records could be in jeopardy from this frigid blast. Temperatures in some areas could reach their lowest marks in more than 80 years, while other locations could break daily record low readings. In some places, the frigid weather could cause iguanas to fall out of trees.

Freeze watches were which were issued Thursday afternoon for parts of southern Georgia and northern Florida, including around the Jacksonville area, were upgraded to freeze warnings on Friday morning.

While Mother Nature has already handed the state multiple rounds of frosty air this season, this incoming bitter blast is expected to be the coldest yet.

Temperatures will likely begin nosediving on Friday night across the interior Southeast with the core of the cold reaching the Florida Peninsula by Saturday night. The icy air will dive southward behind a nor’easter set to take aim at portions of the mid-Atlantic and New England this weekend.

During the day on Saturday, high temperatures are forecast to be stuck in the 30s and 40s F, 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit below average, across the Southeastern states. Atlanta, for example, is forecast to have a high in the middle 30s, when the middle 50s would be more typical for the end of January.

Factoring in a gusty breeze, AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures may be in the 20s throughout the day.

In Florida, that could spell trouble to the agriculture sector.

Forecasters say there is a serious concern for citrus and berry crops in Florida amid the hard freeze forecast to set in Saturday night and advise that frost and freeze mitigation measures be taken ahead of time to minimize or prevent damage and loss.

In the central portion of the Florida Peninsula, 15 to 20 percent of the region’s citrus groves “could be below 28 degrees Fahrenheit for two to three hours on Saturday night,” AccuWeather Senior Agricultural Meteorologist Dale Mohler said. According to the Florida Department of Citrus, the majority of Florida’s oranges are grown in the southern two-thirds of the Florida Peninsula, where there is typically a low probability for a freeze.

The mercury in the thermometers might not be the only thing falling this weekend in Florida. The state’s cold-blooded iguanas don’t handle such low temperatures well and can become incapacitated when temperatures dip into the low 40s F.

Seeing that temperatures fall to their lowest point during the night, these cold-snapped iguanas become immobilized while sleeping in trees, where they then fall to the ground in a zombielike fashion. Once temperatures rise again in the morning, they will spring back to life but not before giving unaware Floridians a fright.

Lower temperatures are likely to last longer over the northern parts of the state, while areas farther south are likely to dip below freezing for only a brief time.

Temperatures at this low of a level will put a number of records in jeopardy for Jan. 30.

The daily record low for Jan. 30 in Orlando is 31 degrees Fahrenheit set back in 1966.

“Low temperatures will challenge that reading by dawn Sunday in Orlando, and many outlying areas around the city will plummet into the middle to upper 20s F,” Sojda said.

The National Weather Service in Tampa said the low temperatures on Sunday morning could be the coldest in the area since 2018.

Fort Myers is expected to be in a position to tie its record low potentially on Sunday. That low of 35 was set in 1978. Miami could even come close to its lowest reading for Jan. 30 of 36 set in 1940.

Even farther south in Marathon, located in the Florida Keys, the temperature could fall into the upper 40s Saturday night. Marathon has fallen below 50 degrees only six times in the past 10 years, most recently on Jan. 22, 2020.

The cold snap is not expected to reach record levels for most interior areas of the Southeast, but temperatures in the middle teens to 20s Saturday night from Tennessee to the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama will certainly require extra layers for anyone outdoors.

Forecasters advise property owners to take measures to help prevent costly damage caused by frozen pipes amid the cold spell. In addition, pet owners are encouraged not to leave animals outside for an extended period of time.

The good news is that meteorologists say this bitter blast will be fleeting, with temperatures expected to rebound as quickly as early next week.

Farther north, the Arctic surge will continue to keep temperatures below average across the Midwest and Northeast, both during and after this weekend’s potent nor’easter.