Record lows expected
Published: Monday, January 4, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 3, 2010 at 9:19 p.m.
It's been more than 20 years since Gainesville had two consecutive nights when temperatures dropped to 20 degrees or lower.
It might happen again this week.
Temperatures are forecast to fall to record lows early this week, according to the National Weather Service. Low temperatures are forecast to be around 20 degrees both tonight and Tuesday night, causing hard freezes that could damage plants and pipes.
"We may be breaking some records here," said Phil Peterson, a meteorologist with the weather service's Jacksonville office.
The weather is expected to be Gainesville's coldest in over a decade. In 1999, record lows were set at 21 degrees on Jan. 5 and 19 degrees on Jan. 6.
Gainesville had its last occurrence of consecutive days with temperatures of 20 degrees or less on Dec. 24 and 25, 1989, according to weather service records.
Longtime residents might remember the period around Christmas in 1989, when Gainesville had a rare snowfall. This week, there will be a low chance of precipitation on the coldest nights.
High temperatures are forecast to stay around or below 50 degrees, lows are forecast to stay in the 20s and a low chance of precipitation is predicted until Thursday.
"That's very unusual to have something as persistent as this," Peterson said.
He said a blast of air from the Arctic and Canada is responsible. Such cold winds are typically broken up before they reach Florida, he said, but weather patterns in the east and west mean the chilly air is being blown directly down here.
A hard freeze bringing stretches of sub-freezing temperatures was expected last night and could happen again tonight. Residents are warned to cover exposed pipes and plants, bring pets indoors and make sure the elderly are in warm conditions.
After a few days of record cold this week, Thursday is expected to provide a break. A high near 58 degrees and low around 34 degrees is forecast, with a 30 percent chance of rain.
The threat of a freeze returns Friday, with a low around 24 degrees in the forecast. Peterson said area residents should expect cold weather to persist through the winter.
"It's going to be around for a while," he said.
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