Temperatures to plummet by dawn

National Weather Service issues hard freeze warning for second night

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - If ever there was a time to get out the jackets, mittens and blankets, this is it.

Channel 4's chief meteorologist John Gaughan called for a 22 degree low overnight Wednesday with mid-20s reaching all the way to the beaches.  Inland areas could see the upper teens.


Twenty-two degrees would match the record for the date going back 124 years.

For the second night in a row, most of WJXT's viewing area is under a hard freeze warning with the forecast calling for sub-freezing temperatures of up to 12 hours across most of Northeast Florida.

"It's very likely tonight, tomorrow morning will be the coldest night of the entire year," Gaughan said on Tuesday's 5 p.m. newscast.

Tuesday's high of 43 degrees -- which felt like mid-30s because of a brisk wind -- was the coldest high temperature recorded in Jacksonville in the past two years.

Temperatures will plummet across the state.   Forecasters at the National Weather Service expected all of Florida to be freezing or near freezing Tuesday evening.  Even places like Miami will struggle to hit 40 degrees.          

"It's a very significant cold snap," said Logan Johnson, a forecaster at the National Weather Service.          

Johnson said a strong cold front from Canada is causing the weather. The freezing temperatures inland will probably last for five or six hours, he said, which could significantly impact fruit and vegetable crops.          

"It's been very warm these past few weeks and the plants aren't acclimated to the cold," said Johnson, adding that it was 80 degrees on Christmas in much of central Florida.          

Farmers in the central and southern parts of the state will be on alert Tuesday, hoping to not lose their crops to the cold. In 2010, crops were heavily damaged by freezing temperatures.          

Strawberry farmers in places like Plant City will be up all night to turn on sprinklers to spray water on the tender fruit. The water will freeze and provide insulation.          

Meanwhile, emergency officials are opening cold weather shelters for the homeless and other needy people who don't have heat in their homes.          

Johnson said it will gradually warm up Wednesday and into the weekend.

"After tomorrow night, we're going to be turning the corner," he said.

Copyright 2012 by News4Jax.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.