Snowy Saturday?

After hitting record low, slight chance of snow in forecast

Published: Friday, January 8, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 10:54 p.m.

Floridians this week have wrapped themselves in heavy coats, stocked up on space heaters and winterized their gardens and homes. Now it looks like North Florida could get another taste of a real northern winter - snow.

Residents from St. Augustine south to Leesburg may wake up Saturday morning to snow flurries, thanks to successive cold fronts that have chilled the state to the bone and set record lows from Alachua County to Indian River County, meteorologists say.

On Thursday morning, Gainesville beat a 1924 record of 22 degrees with a low of 21. Ocala set a record also at 21 degrees, far below the previous record low of 28 set in 1928, according to the National Weather Service in Jacksonville. Those are just two of the record lows that were recorded around the state. Record lows also were set in Orlando, Melbourne and Vero Beach.

If snow flurries really do arrive, it will be the first time in 14 years the Gainesville area has had snow, weather service records show. The last time was a trace of snow on Jan. 8, 1996. Before that, a winter storm in 1989 dropped snow on Christmas Eve in parts of North Florida, including Gainesville.

At first, forecasts this week only called for possible snow flurries in southeastern Georgia Thursday night.

But conditions could be lining up to bring rain mixed with light snow and ice on bridges and overpasses early this weekend.

Rain should move through the area Thursday night and Friday morning. Once the cold front settles south, a wave is expected to form and it will send moisture surging back north, said meteorologist Jason Deese.

"Cold air will be in place and that's when we will have light rain mixed with possibly light snow," Deese said.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management warned that driving conditions could be hazardous Friday in the Panhandle due to the Arctic front, with some roads and bridges icing up.

The freezing weather is expected to continue through Tuesday, with a warming trend Wednesday with highs in the mid-60s and lows in the low to mid-30s, according to the weather service.

Before temperatures begin returning to normal, the Gainesville area could break the 1960 record for the most consecutive days with a minimum temperature of 32 degrees or lower. Freezing temperatures started locally on Saturday when the low reached 32 degrees. It has been below that in the mid to low 20s every night since then.

Besides a new low temperature, Gainesville broke another record Thursday.

The winter peak electricity demand hit a new high Thursday morning, Gainesville Regional Utilities reported. At 7:26 a.m., the usage hit 451 megawatts, breaking the record set last February of 445 megawatts. Typically, usage during a winter day locally is 270 to 280 megawatts.

The figure falls short of 484 megawatts, the record demand for electricity set on Aug. 8, 2009.

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