Morning freeze warning in effect
Published: Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 16, 2009 at 10:20 p.m.
The cold weather that swept into Gainesville on Thursday night and Friday morning did not set any records, but we will get another chance at record setting this morning.
The National Weather Service issued a hard freeze warning for North Florida until 10 this morning, which means the temperature was expected to remain below freezing for more than 12 hours in most places. Another freeze has been forecast for tonight into Sunday morning.
The mercury dipped to 33 degrees in Gainesville early Friday morning, far above the 20-degree record low temperature set for Jan. 16 in 1927.
National Weather Service meteorologist Jason Deese said the high pressure system ushering Arctic cold into Florida and other Southeastern states was partially offset by two factors - clouds and wind.
"The high pressure was sufficient to get the Arctic cold air to push into the South, but the other variables needed for really cold air are calm winds and clear skies," Deese said. "We did not have either of those overnight. We had high clouds and north winds."
Conditions are expected to be different this morning. The somewhat insulating high clouds will be gone, giving the cold weather easier access to North Florida. Winds are supposed to be calm, allowing the cold to settle over the area, Deese said.
Gainesville's record low for early today was set in 1959 at 23 degrees. The projected low this morning is for the low 20s in Gainesville and a few degrees colder in outlying areas, Deese said.
The freezing temperatures, low humidity and winds have raised concerns about the possibility of erratic wildfires. Division of Forestry spokeswoman Ludie Bond said a small fire that broke out Friday afternoon between Kanapaha Middle School and Kanapaha Botanical Gardens could have become a big problem.
"We're fortunate in Alachua County to have a lot of resources for fighting wildfires," Bond said. "Crews from Alachua County Fire Rescue and our agency are able to jump right on these fires and prevent them from getting real big."
Officials said it took just minutes for winds from the north to spread the fire across six acres before it was contained.
"This fire could have traveled to the south and compromised the GRU substation off Archer Road," Bond said.
Area residents are urged to use extreme caution with fire and ignition sources like cigarette butts while out of doors this weekend.
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