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Chilly weather concerns officials

By Staff | Jan 20, 2009

Cape Coral residents are not going to be as cold as the people of Embarrass, Minn., where temperatures Tuesday reached 43 degrees below zero, but forecasters predict temperatures in Lee County may approach record area lows tonight and leave residents feeling the effects.
The temperatures are chilly enough that the Lee County Emergency Operations Center has issued a cold weather warning.
Additionally, two cold weather shelters were opened last night in Fort Myers and will remain open tonight. The shelters are located at 2476 Edison Ave. and 6900 Mission Lane, and both open at 7 p.m., according to Lee County EOC spokesperson Gerald Campbell.
The record low for Jan. 21 in Fort Myers is 30 degrees, though areas east of Interstate 75 will likely come close to that low with areas farther west not far behind, according to Tom Dougherty, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Tampa Bay.
Areas farther north will see even colder temperatures, such as Tampa which is forecasted to reach into the 20s tonight, Dougherty said.
“It’s a little unusual because Florida is warm, but we get a couple cold snaps each winter and this isn’t that uncommon,” he said. “It’s lower than average, but at any one time in the winter season this happens.”
The cold snap much of the eastern United States is feeling right now is pushing cold air from Canada down through the northeastern part of the country and winds are pushing the cold farther south, Dougherty said.
Though Floridians may not be shoveling snow tomorrow morning, “Cold is cold no matter where you are,” he said.
In fact, it is cold enough that the National Weather Service has issued a freeze watch for Lee County, which will likely turn into a freeze warning by tonight.
Residents should take extra precautions during the cold weather, including the following tips offered by the Lee County EOC:
— Keep space heaters away from flammable items, inspect the heater and electrical cord before use and do not use extension cords.
— Check to make sure smoke detectors are working properly.
— Do not use gas or charcoal grills inside because they produce carbon monoxide.
— Check up on your neighbors, friends and relatives, especially children and elderly adults.
— Stay indoors or dress in warm layers.
— Bring pets inside as well as potted plants. Cover outdoor plants.
According to representatives of Danny Yates Landscape Nursery in Cape Coral, the cold weather could damage outdoor plants if they are not properly covered.
“Most of the plants here are bred to be in very warm climates, so most of them do freeze at 32 degrees,” a Danny Yates employee said. “If you get close to that, it may not kill them but it may burn their leaves or cause them to lose leaves.”
Danny Yates, located at 425 S.W. Pine Island Road, does have frost covers for purchase, which allow outdoor plants to keep from freezing and also lets the plants breathe properly.
Sans the frost covers, plant owners can use newspapers, a cloth sheet or cardboard boxes, but should not use plastic to cover their plants, the nursery employee said.
Additionally, residents should turn off irrigation systems to keep plants from freezing, and should not cut plants damaged from the cold until a slightly warmer time of year.
“When you cut it then that new growth would be even more cold-tender,” the employee said. “We get another cold night, and it damages the newer growth and its a cycle.”
Temperatures are expected to warm up into the weekend, Dougherty predicts.
Thursday will see a high of 65 degrees and lows in the 40s, and Friday’s high will be around 70, he said.