Jax drops to low 20s; teens in Georgia, Panhandle

Headline Goes Here Photo by Jeffrey StClair

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - While we missed the record low by a degree, the 22 degrees registered at Jacksonville International early Tuesday morning may be the lowest of the winter, and the wind chill made it feel like 10 degrees. 

The temperature wasn't expected to rise above freezing until 11 a.m. and Tuesday's high may not reach 40, with another hard freeze forecast overnight.

Channel 4's Chief Meteorologist John Gaughan says the air temperature will drop to 32 before 8 p.m. at the airport and other inland locations, so there could be another 12 hours below freezing.  He believes that temperatures by dawn on Wednesday will reach 23 at JIA, 26 downtown and 28 at the beaches.

Tuesday morning, viewers reported temperatures in the teens -- 17 at Hilliard -- and National Weather Service stations in southeast Georgia reported official lows 17 in Albany, 18 in Albany and 21 in Brunswick.  Wind chills in that area were as low as 9 degrees.

Schools were closed Tuesday in Columbia, Charlton and Ware counties at the recommendation of emergency management officials.

"Lived here my whole life and this is this first time I'm actually cold," said Braxton Treverrow who got the day off from Columbia High School.

Baker County announced that parents who kept their children home Tuesday could send in a note and their absence would be excused.

Duval County school transportation companies came in early to warm the buses and make sure the heat was working before the drivers began their routes for the morning.

Colder in the Panhandle; freeze as far south as Orlando

A hard freeze warning was issued for the northern half of the state and extended as far south as Hernando, Lake, Sumter and Volusia counties. Emergency management officials warned that Monday night was expected to be the coldest night of the winter.

In Pensacola, which dropped to 19 degrees by dawn, streets normally filled with joggers, bikers and people walking dogs were deserted. Downtown, Monica Anderson and Tommy Howard jumped up and down and blew on their hands while they waited for a bus, struggling to stay warm.
Anderson said she couldn't it recall it ever being so cold.
"I'm not used to it. It is best just to stay inside until it gets better," said Anderson, who had to get out for early morning appointment with her doctor.

"It is the duration of these freezing temperatures into the late morning and early afternoon in some places that make this weather event so rare," deputy state meteorologist Tiffany Hersey wrote in an email.

Fern growers checked their irrigation systems to make sure they were ready to protect their plants against cold weather and shelters opened around the state Monday as Floridians prepared for freezing weather.
In Pierson, an area that bills itself as the fern capital of the world, growers were preparing to use their overhead irrigation systems as protection against the cold. They planned to spray their plants to create a protective ice layer once the temperature reached freezing and then run a constant flow of 72-degree water over the iced plants. The freeze was occurring at a particularly important time of the year when the current crop of ferns will be used for Valentine's Day bouquets.
"We're all concerned," said fern grower Samuel Bennett. "As a grower, you always hope that perhaps it won't be as extreme as predicted, but you have to be prepared to protect your crops."
Florida's citrus crops, which are grown in the southern half of the state, weren't expected to be in jeopardy given that damage occurs only if the temperature is 28 degrees or lower for more than four hours or more. But citrus trees in low-lying pockets could be vulnerable since temperatures tend to be colder there than in surrounding areas.
"We are cautiously optimistic we can get through in good shape," said Andrew Meadows, a spokesman for Florida Citrus Mutual, a grower's group.
Most of Florida's other vegetable and fruit crops are grown in the southern half of the state and weren't expected to be at risk, although growers were concerned about strawberries grown west of Tampa, where a freeze warning was in effect.
Meanwhile, cold weather shelters were open from Jacksonville to St. Petersburg.  Shelter workers were going to areas frequented by the homeless in vans to try and to encourage people to come to the shelters.
Sprinklers systems are often placed at a very shallow depth in the yard and that makes them susceptible to freezing and breaking, Nelson said, and a lot of the plumbing in homes in the area is uninsulated.

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