Shivering Sunshine State: see when warmth returns
Saturday, January 6, 2018, 17:02 - 2018 has started on a frosty note across Florida, with some places in the north getting a blanket of measurable snow for the first time in three decades last week.
The frozen precipitation that fell just to the north of Orlando last Wednesday was a by-product of the frigid air that's been blasting south into the Sunshine State for the past week. The messy Wednesday morning commute also shut down portions of Interstate 10 east of Tallahassee with many accidents being reported. While the massive winter storm that battered the Northeast left most of Florida unscathed, temperatures have been slow to rebound through most of the state.
WHY it's been so cold
The nor'easter that went on to blast the Eastern Seaboard was to blame for the second blast of below freezing conditions late this week. The storm's winds moved counter clockwise around the low pressure centre, dragging in a strong northerly bitter wind allowing Arctic air to flood the south. Temperatures fell into the 40's even as far south as Miami, with northern parts of the state struggling to climb out of the 30's for daytime highs.
Impacts: Freeze so severe that it annihilates entire groves across the state
With this extreme cold we will be watching for impacts on the delicate citrus groves and farmers will likely be working hard to protect their crops from the frigid Arctic air. Freeze warnings and hard freeze warnings have been issued across the northern part of the state. Many of the citrus groves are located south of the Orlando area and these groves have already had a devastating blow after Hurricane Irma. Some areas in southwest Florida had extensive and serious damage that will take a long time to recover from.
Historically the worst freeze for Florida in recent years was in 1989 when what is known as an impact freeze occurred (see video that leads this article). This is a freeze so severe that it annihilates entire groves across the state killing both mature and young citrus trees, while causing a profound economic impact on the citrus industry and usually prompting growers to replant farther south. This freeze occurred on December 22-26. The freeze of '89 was the fifth impact freeze recorded in Florida's history, however it was the third impact freeze in a single decade, leaving growers little time to recover after the freezes of 1983 and 1985 which were also devastating to the orange groves.
Note from the National Weather Service:
A Freeze Warning means sub-freezing temperatures are imminent or expected for at least 2 hours. Appropriate action should be taken to ensure tender vegetation and outdoor pets have adequate protection from the cold temperatures. Young children, the elderly and the homeless are especially vulnerable to the cold. Take measures to protect them.
A Hard Freeze Warning means that temperatures 27 degrees or less are expected for at least 2 hours.
When it warms up
There's good news on the horizon for Florida residents and snowbirds alike as we head through the rest of the weekend and into next week. Blocking high pressure over the north Atlantic will finally shift, allowing the deep area of upper-level low pressure to finally move out of the Great Lakes and Northeast. This will let the jet stream that's been diving so far south over the eastern half of the country to retreat north, taking the bitterly cold air with it.
While parts of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic will take longer to see results, Floridians will be among the first to benefit from this pattern shift, as temperatures climb through the weekend. By Monday, central and South Florida will be easing back into near or slightly above seasonal high temperatures in low 70s. Forecasters are watching the potential for a developing storm in the Deep South, however, that goes along with this pattern change and may bring some showers and thunderstorms to the Panhandle and parts of the Florida peninsula through the middle of the week ahead.
As we get into the second half of January and beyond, the traditional 'January Thaw' seems set to bring relief to most of the east, with milder temperatures across the board.
Watch below: Tourists flock to see Niagara Falls freezing everything nearby
With files from Weather Network meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal
Thumbnail image courtesy: Natalie Kirkland/Instagram