Brisk business

Space heaters, firewood and coats are all in demand.

University of Florida students bear the record-cold temperatures during the first day of classes on Tuesday, January 5, 2010 .

Aaron E. Daye/ The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 10:22 p.m.

Swimwear is already on the racks. But area customers instead are trying on coats and putting down cash for space heaters.

So say store employees at some area businesses during a week in which North Florida residents are coping with a northern instead of a southern winter.

Low temperatures remained in the 20s in Gainesville, where the low Tuesday morning was 27 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Jacksonville. The reading was warmer than a predicted low of 20 degrees but still almost 20 degrees below the normal low for this time of year.

The low predicted for this morning was 21 degrees, said meteorologist Phil Peterson with the weather service in Jacksonville. And patchy frost is predicted for Thursday morning.

Thursday might be the one day in which temperatures will be moderate. Highs will be near 60 with a low of 32 degrees. If the area hits that low, it should break the record of nine days for the most consecutive days of freezing temperatures after another cold air mass pushes south.

The chance of rain also will increase to 40 percent Thursday with rain ahead of the other cold front.

It's this weather pattern that could cause a wintry mix in portions of South Georgia. Forecasts predict it will be too warm for any flurries in North Florida, Peterson said.

Lows in the 20s return Saturday morning and should persist into early next week, according to forecasts. The cold weather will last at least through Tuesday, Peterson said.

The cold spell definitely has impacted shopping patterns, store employees say.

"Space heaters are flying off the shelves," said Alden Kooken, store team leader at Target off Archer Road. And while employees are putting out swimsuits, the swimwear is positioned next to the coats, hats and gloves that currently are attracting customers.

If the weather remains frigid, Wayne Gray, who owns Gray's Tree Service in Gainesville, said he might see an increase in firewood sales. The wood that he sells comes from his property in Hawthorne or is salvaged from tree service jobs, he said.

At Publix stores, firewood and Duraflame logs are selling, spokesman Dwaine Stevens said. "We're keeping them in stock as much as we can," he said.

And people seem to be looking for warm food and comfort snacks, Stevens said. Soup seems to be selling well, as are the store's bakery items.

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