With the temperature in Florida expected to drop below 40 degrees Monday night, many Florida counties are opting to open shelters for the homeless and those living in homes without heat.
Aaron Gallaher, communications director for the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM), told Sunshine State News, "The division generally leaves these decisions up to local agencies, but a lot of counties have already taken the good, proactive step to open up."
FDEM officials now are urging residents and visitors throughout Florida to practice fire and cold weather safety as a strong arctic air mass brings freezing temperatures to the state through Wednesday morning. Temperatures could reach as low as the upper teens in North Florida and along the Nature Coast, while Central Florida could see temperatures in the low 30s, Gallaher said in a later press statement.
"Florida braces for the coldest temperatures of the year as an Arctic cold front pushes across the state today, said David Zierden, Floridas state climatologist and an associate in research for the FSU Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies. Freezing temperatures are expected as far south as Orlando and Central Florida and temperatures could drop into the teens over the Florida Panhandle. These freezing temperatures pose a substantial risk for cold-sensitive crops such as citrus, blueberries, and strawberries.
Decreasing temperatures and low wind chill values are expected across much of the state both Monday and Tuesday night, extending as far south as Palm Beach and Collier counties, confirmed State Meteorologist Amy Godsey. Floridians should monitor their local forecasts and take necessary precautions.
Additionally, the National Weather Service has issued hard freeze and freeze warnings for Monday night into Tuesday morning for North Florida and Central Florida. Windy and dry conditions will also increase the risk of wildfires.
A freeze warning means sub-freezing temperatures are imminent or highly likely for at least two hours. A hard freeze warning means sub-freezing temperatures are imminent or highly likely, and will kill crops and other sensitive vegetation. Wind chill notifications from the National Weather Service mean that the combination of cold temperatures and winds will generate low wind chill values and could lead to hypothermia if precautions are not taken.
Residents and visitors are urged to remember the "Five P's" of cold weather safety: Protecting People, Protecting Plants, Protecting Pets, Protecting Exposed Pipes, and Practicing Fire Safety.
FDEM offers this advice:
-- Stay indoors and use safe heating sources.
-- Be aware of the fire danger from space heaters and candles. Keep such devices away from all flammable materials such as curtains and furniture, and install recommended smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
-- Indoors: Do not use charcoal or other fuel-burning devices, such as grills that produce carbon monoxide. Install at least one carbon monoxide detector per floor in your home.
-- Outdoors: Stay dry and in wind-protected areas.
-- Wear multiple layers of loose-fitting, warm clothing.
-- Drink non-alcoholic fluids.
-- Shelter or bring inside animals, especially pets.
For more information about severe weather in Florida, and to "Get A Plan," visit www.FloridaDisaster.org. Follow FDEM on social media on Twitter at @FLSERT, Instagram @FloridaSERT, Vine @FloridaSERT, Pinterest at FloridaSERT, as well as on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/FloridaSERT and www.Facebook.com/KidsGetAPlan.
Meanwhile, Kris Volpone, volunteer coordinator at the Salvation Army of Lee, Hendry and Glades counties, told Sunshine State News the Salvation Army in all three counties is opening its shelters. "The chronic homeless in our area will know where to go," said Volpone. "And we do a nightly dinner, so word will spread there."
Counties that had reported shelter openings by 5 p.m. to FDEM include DeSoto, Pasco, Martin, St. Lucie, Citrus, Hernando and Hillsborough.
Climatologist Zierden said Florida has seen colder temperatures.
While temperatures will reach the coldest values thus far this winter, they are not expected to break record values such as those set in 1985, he said.
According to data collected by the Florida Climate Center, in January 1985, it was 6 degrees in Tallahassee, 21 degrees in Avon Park and 30 degrees in Fort Myers.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423.