Area braces for cold weather

Published: Sunday, January 23, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 11:47 p.m.
North Florida was bracing for a blast of Arctic air linked to a severe winter storm blowing across Northeastern states Saturday, and forecasters said the weather pattern could force temperatures in Gainesville well below freezing by daybreak Monday.
Parks Camp, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Jacksonville, said the squall moving into New England could send the local mercury into the mid-30s by this morning, nearly a 40-degree swing from Saturday's high of 72.
"We don't want to be up there," Camp said of the blizzard-besieged region. "In Boston, they're looking at about 2 feet of snow. Here, we've (only) got a few showers."
The nor'easter, already blamed for three deaths in Ohio, could sink temperatures in Gainesville into the lower 20s by Monday, Camp said. The weather service has issued a hard freeze watch for Alachua and surrounding counties, and is warning residents that minimum temperatures could even dip into the upper teens.
"Please make plans to ensure outdoor plants and pets will be protected from the cold," the weather service said in a statement. "Young children, the elderly and the homeless are especially vulnerable to the cold."
Despite the severe weather warnings, however, few in Gainesville Saturday appeared worried by the news. Some even dared the storm to unleash its worst.
"There's nothing like a snow day," said Alexis Echevarria, 17, as she sat outside Moe's Southwest Grill on Archer Road. "There's nothing like waking up, opening your front door and seeing snow that hasn't been touched."
Courtney Evans, 16, who had traveled to Gainesville from Melbourne with Echevarria for the weekend, added simply: "I'd rather be up north."
Unfortunately for area snow aficionados, that may be the only way to take in the white stuff. While temperatures will be more than cold enough for snow, Camp said chilly weather in Florida usually means no moisture and thus, no flurries.
"It takes a very unusual set of circumstance to get snow around here," the meteorologist said.
Which may be good news for some native Floridians.
"I'd rather be comfortable," said Alex Arevalo, 26, of Miami, who was studying for a test outside a Gainesville-area Starbucks.
It snowed when "I was up in Virginia this holiday seeing my sister. It's not fun," he said.
"You've got to shovel, you slip, fall, your car gets stuck. And it seems you can never get enough clothes on to stay warm."
Greg Bruno can be reached at (352) 374-5026.

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