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Freeze warning issued for Southwest Florida

By Staff | Dec 13, 2010

Southwest Florida will experience another cold front through Wednesday with temperatures dipping into the teens in some areas.
Meteorologist Paul Close said there is a strong high pressure area coming in from the central United States that is expected to push cold air into Southwest Florida for the next couple of days.
A freeze warning has been issued for Fort Myers and Cape Coral due to temperatures reaching the 30s tonight. Close said for those who live further inland around Lehigh Acres will feel temperatures dip into the 20s.
Tuesday afternoon temperatures will reach the mid to high 50s with winds between 10 and 15 mph before the night temperatures drop into the 20s due to the wind, with Lehigh Acres temperatures reaching the teens.
On Wednesday morning, Close said some could experience some frost before the afternoon reaches back into the low 60s with winds between 5 and 10 mph. That night temperatures will drop to the mid 30s for those who live inland and in the low 40s for the Cape Coral area.
Red Cross Communications Coordinator Colin Downey stressed that individuals should dress in layers during the next couple of days to keep themselves protected from the elements.
“We have drawers full of long-sleeve shirts we can pile on,” he said. “Simple layering is an effective way to stay warm.”
The Salvation Army of Lee, Hendry and Glades counties Resource and Media Specialist Merrilu Bennett said they opened their shelters last night for 19 people.
During the last cold spell Lee County experienced on Dec. 6, The Salvation Army had 22 people stay at the shelter and 26 people on Dec. 7, which included two children.
She said they are expecting the same if not more people to utilize the shelter since it will be a little cooler outside.
Bennett said some individuals came in and picked up blankets and jackets and left to go stay at other places. So far they have given away 50 blankets and 20 jackets each night the emergency shelter has been open during the cold weather.
The Salvation Army serves a hot meal from 5 to 7 p.m., with the emergency shelter opening afterwards. Bennett said since they have a designated overflow shelter for men, they typically have more men stay at the emergency shelter during the cold weather.
They have 20 extra cots for men and 10 extra cots for women during the cold nights. Bennett explained that last January they had nights where they had 30 people stay at the shelter when it was cold.
“We don’t turn anybody away, we make room,” she said.
Close encourages residents to protect their tropical plants by either covering them or bringing them indoors while the cold front pushes through.
He also encourages individuals to protect their exposed water pipes in the areas where the temperatures are going to be in the mid 20s, so the pipes do not freeze and explode. Individuals can either leave their water spigot on with a low drip or wrap the pipes with special protection.
Residents of Southwest Florida will experience warmer temperatures on Thursday and Friday afternoon as it reaches between the low to upper 70s.
The weather conditions will be very dry during the next couple of days due to low humidity.
The Lee County Red Cross has responded to 15 home fires in the last 33 days, due to heating sources being used during the cold weather.
Downey said a few of the fires were in duplexes, along with many of them occurring in homes.
“Several of them reportedly started by some sort of heater,” he said, adding that the amount of fires is a little bit above average from the previous year. “We have had several fires caused by malfunctioned heaters.”
With temperatures dipping as low as the mid-teens in the next few days, individuals should be cautious when using space heaters, fireplaces or wood and coal stoves.
“Space heaters are potentially dangerous,” Downey said. “We know many people prefer to use them and that’s OK, but with space heaters comes responsibility. Please never leave them unattended, turn them off before you fall asleep and keep them clear from any kind of bedding, furniture or carpets.”
Other advice from the Red Cross also includes never leaving a fireplace unattended when a fire is lit and to make sure either a glass or metal fire screen is placed around the fireplace to keep fire and embers within the fireplace. A cooking range or stove should never be used to heat a home and wood and coal stoves, fireplaces and chimneys should be inspected and cleaned every year.
According to the Division of Emergency Management, a high surf advisory is also in effect until 4 p.m. Tuesday for Levy, Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee counties. Offshore waves are expected to reach between 15-20 feet, with breaking waves reaching 6 to 8 feet causing dangerous rip currents.
Rip currents run perpendicular to the beach and can extend between 200 to 2,500 feet in length and 30 feet wide traveling at more than 5 miles per hour.