Out of the rain and into the freezing cold

A pedestrian crosses Spc. Jeffrey Mattison Wershow Way under rainy skies in downtown Gainesville Tuesday, January 13. The street, also know as SE 1st Street, is named for Army Spc. Jeffrey M. Wershow, 22, of Gainesville who was conducting military operations when he was shot and killed in Baghdad, Iraq on July 6, 2003.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 10:52 p.m.

University of Florida student Tina Steiger rides her bike from her house on NW 25th Avenue almost every day. She says it gets her to school faster than waiting for the bus or sitting in traffic.

But Tuesday morning, with rain pouring and temperatures in the low 40s, she woke up her roommate to ask for a lift to campus.

"I contemplated cutting up a trash bag, but that wouldn't keep the rain off for a 2-mile ride," she said.

A mass of Arctic air drifting south across the Midwest pushed a belt of rain across North Florida on Tuesday, causing pedestrians to clutch umbrellas and huddle under balconies before charging into the downpour.

The rest of this week, they'll be reaching for their heavy coats, as temperatures are expected to dip below freezing the next four nights - with temperatures dipping into the low 20s by Friday night.

The cold, heavy air from the north that covered North Central Florida on Tuesday was displacing warmer, lighter air to the south, a common occurrence for this time of year, which can lead to a day of widespread rain, according to Jason Hess, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jacksonville.

Another cyclist, Julian Castro, was undeterred Tuesday. With fenders to reduce splashing and shoes designed to grip his pedals, he said he was equipped for a ride to campus in the rain.

He tapped his brakes, producing a squeegee-like effect to keep them dry. He also stayed away from cars, which could splash him as they drove through roadside mud puddles.

"I just ride a route that avoids major traffic," he said. "In Gainesville, that's easy to do."

The rain helped end a dry spell. Alachua County officials on Tuesday allowed a burn ban, approved by the County Commission on Dec. 31, to expire.

The air from the north is frigid but dry, so the rest of the week will be cold and clear. A low of 27 is forecast for tonight, with highs today expected to only reach the upper 50s. The low Thursday night is predicted to hit 25, Friday night it's expected to dip to 21 and Saturday night to 29.

Still, Steiger said she will be back on her bike this week.

"I'll definitely ride in the cold," she said. "I can bundle up and put on gloves. It's the rain that's a problem."

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