The coldest air mass in two years has engulfed the Florida peninsula, and subfreezing temperatures or wind chills are possible as far south as the Everglades by Wednesday morning.
A Freeze Watch has been issued for all inland areas of west-central Florida, including the outskirts of both the Tampa and Sarasota metro areas. Freeze Warnings and Hard Freeze Warnings have been hoisted from Hernando, Lake and Volusia counties north to the Georgia border. Wind Chill Advisories have been issued for the entire peninsula. All alerts are in effect overnight tonight until mid-morning on Wednesday.
The pressure gradient between a cold high pressure system over the Mid Atlantic States and a strengthening low in the Bahamas will tend to “funnel” cold air southward through the peninsula. A slight component to the wind from the east may spare the Atlantic seaboard from freezing temperatures, but areas inland and roughly along and north of I-4 have the greatest risk for subfreezing temperatures. Lows are forecast to dip into the mid to upper 20s over much of the Panhandle, Big Bend, the Nature Coast, and North-Central Florida first thing Wednesday morning. The National Weather Service predicts freezing temperatures as far south as portions of Manatee, Hardee, Desoto, and Sarasota counties. Upper 30s could be felt as far south as Naples and in the Everglades.
Areas that do not receive a freeze will be susceptible to wind chills between 18 and 25 degrees for areas near Lake City, Gainesville, and Ocala. Widespread wind chills in the 20s are in the forecast for nearly all of central and interior south Florida. Even normally milder locations along the Gold Coast and Lee Island Coast are expected to experience chills around freezing late Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning.
The unseasonably cold air will stick around on Wednesday, as highs stay in the 50s along and north of I-4 and crack into the 60s over the remainder of the peninsula.
Another freeze is not anticipated Wednesday night. Winds will veer to a more easterly direction off the Atlantic Ocean, bringing in a milder air mass. The mercury should top 70 degrees Thursday afternoon south of I-4 and over most of the rest of the peninsula by Friday. Highs are expected to recover into the 60s over the Big Bend and Panhandle by week’s end.