Effects of mild winter will be felt throughout the year
Published: Monday, February 11, 2013 at 8:25 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 11, 2013 at 8:25 p.m.
Gainesville may be enjoying a warm winter, but the traditionally cold season isn't over yet.
Cold temperatures could make a comeback this weekend, possibly bringing a light freeze with them, said Jason Hess, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Jacksonville. Hess expects a cold-air blast this weekend, with lows dipping below freezing on Sunday and Monday morning.
Winter ends along on March 19, and Gainesville could experience a cold snap or two before then. But the area has seen fewer freezes than average this season, and zero hard freezes.
The average date of Gainesville's final freeze is Feb. 24, although the latest freeze ever recorded was on April 17, 1962, Hess said.
The area usually averages 14 days of below-freezing temperatures, but so far it has only had eight such days this winter.
This season, there have been no hard freezes, which generally occur when the temperature falls below 26 degrees.
Typically, Gainesville averages four hard freezes in winter. In January 2010 during an especially cold winter, there were 11 hard freezes.
This year's mild winter means more mosquitos will survive the season, said Paul Myers, health administrator for the Alachua County Health Department. A warm winter paired with the drought the area has been experiencing is particularly helpful to diseases like West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis, Myers said.
Birds and mosquitoes are overwintering together and jointly using increasingly limited surface waters, thus encouraging the spread of the diseases, Myers said.
In Levy County, a person died from Eastern equine encephalitis in January, he said, showing that, although their activity is lower during winter, these disease-carrying mosquitoes are likely still in the area.
“We really didn't have the hard freezes that would kill off the mosquitoes,” he said. He said he expects it will be a rough summer for people in terms of mosquitos and suggested people continue to take precautions.
As for local plant life, the mild winter will encourage trees and other plants to bloom early this year, said Mark Siburt, the city of Gainesville arborist. Many are blooming already because of the warm temperatures.
However, these early bloomers could be killed by any cold snaps that swing through in the next couple of weeks during the final phase of winter, he said.
Some trees could still partially bloom, but the buds frozen by the cold wouldn't bloom again until next year. Smaller trees are more likely to be rendered completely bloom-less by a cold snap.
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