Winter chill brings quite a shock to Florida, Deep South

Alex Sosnowski

In a twist from what has been a warm winter so far, the southeastern United States and parts of Florida will experience chilly air and even freezing temperatures into midweek.

In some cases it will feel 60 degrees colder when comparing AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures from last last week with this week.

Temperature departures from average for January have topped 5 degrees Fahrenheit in many parts of the Southeast and in some cases have been 10 degrees above normal for the first 19 days of the month.

Above-average temperature departures from average include 11.2 degrees in Charlotte, North Carolina, 11 degrees in Jacksonville, Florida, 10.4 degrees in Atlanta and 6.1 degrees in Miami.

The warmth has been a boon for the snowbird industry, where folks from the northern U.S. who have ventured to the South for relief from the winter have encountered temperatures more typical of late spring or early autumn back home.

A recent stretch of the polar vortex has brought a change in the pattern, albeit brief.

In a move not yet experienced this winter, a blast of cold air that first arrived over the northern Plains early last week has made its way through the Florida Peninsula.

While this blast will significantly pale in comparison to major Arctic air outbreaks in prior winters, it can be a refreshing change for some people and harsh chill for others. The cold air will be a reminder that January weather occasionally visits the Deep South.

During the peak of the cold weather, highs are forecast to range from the lower 30s over the southern Appalachians to the middle 60s in South Florida.

The coldest night is likely to be Tuesday night over much of the region. Actual low temperatures are forecast to range from the middle teens over the southern Appalachians to near 50 in the Florida Keys. However, a breeze will make it feel colder along the Atlantic coast.

Since the prolonged and extreme warmth much of this winter has advanced the status of buds and development of late-winter crops, there are some risks from freezing temperatures in parts of the Deep South.

The unusual warmth has leaves emerging much earlier than average in the Deep South. The small, tender leaves could be damaged.

Atlantic storm to cause trouble

AccuWeather meteorologists are tracking a developing storm east of Florida that will help to funnel cold air southward through the peninsula into midweek.

The storm will produce dangerous surf conditions along the Florida Atlantic coast as well as the northern shores of the Bahamas into Thursday. Bermuda can expect stormy conditions with dangerous seas during the middle to latter part of this week.

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"While this storm will cause a cold wind to stir, especially along the immediate Atlantic coast, there is some risk that winds diminish for a time at night to allow cold air to collect and produce a frost or freeze in the central and western parts of the Florida Peninsula," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski.

There is some risk of damage to strawberries which have ripened early due to the recent warmth in the central counties of the peninsula.

Last week, strawberries were being harvested in Hillsborough County, Florida, near Tampa, according to a recent report by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The report states that a wide range of fruits and vegetables were planted over the past couple of weeks.

These tender crops could be at risk during the upcoming cold nights.

"Temperatures may get down to within a few degrees of freezing just east of Tampa and southwest of Orlando, Florida, from late Tuesday night to Wednesday morning," Kottlowski said.

Later this week, the flow of air is likely to shift from north to south to more of an east to west configuration across the peninsula and the Deep South. This should allow milder air to flow across the region with higher nighttime temperatures.

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