Grab those jackets Gainesville, we have a cold weekend ahead

·7 min read

Bring in the pets and plants. Let that water drip. And be careful if you decide to use a space heater. This weekend is going to be a chilly one in Gainesville and Ocala, the coldest weekend in four years, though not one for the record books.

An arctic cold front is expected to dig deep into Florida this weekend, bringing a hard freeze at daybreak Sunday. A hard freeze is when temperatures reach 28 degrees or lower for four hours or more.

But about as quick it comes, the cold weather will give way to seasonable temperatures by Tuesday.

Cold and COVID: Do at-home COVID-19 tests still work if they get cold? What if they freeze in my mailbox?

National Weather Service forecasters say that both Gainesville and Ocala are expected to see temperatures dip to 25 degrees at daybreak Sunday morning, but could get even colder in some areas.

The temperature swings are especially great in Marion County, which is larger than Rhode Island. The low is expected to be a few degrees colder than 25 degrees in the north, west and southwest of Ocala and warmer to the south.

Though the arctic blast may seem colder than ever before, it will not break a record, weather archives state. The record low for Jan. 30 in Gainesville was 20 in 1966, and in Ocala the record was 21 in 1978. It will be coldest weather since 2018.

The arctic cold front will be approaching late Friday, pushing temperatures down to near freezing at daybreak Saturday. The high temperature on Saturday will be in the upper 40s in Gainesville and may reach 50 in Ocala.

On Sunday afternoon, high temperatures are expected to reach the mid- to upper 50s.

"There is a real strong high pressure moving in, and it's going to be very dry on Saturday," said Andrew Shashy, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Jacksonville. "It (cold air) will just keep pouring through on Saturday, which will be kind of blustery."

A strong front that is pushing toward the south, ushering in the cold weather, will also push a low pressure system in the Atlantic up the eastern seaboard. That nor'easter could bring feet of snow along the Northeast coast.

Shashy said it will be time to bring in pets and protect plants. It is also advisable to let water drip at sinks indoors to help keep the water pipes from freezing.

One of the biggest concerns out there is that people without central heat will crank up space heaters to stay warm. That usually leads to deadly house fires, and officials are hoping to remind people to be careful.

Gainesville opens shelters

The city of Gainesville Cold Night Shelter Program has been activated. The program will remain in effect until temperatures rise above 45. According to Alachua County's Facebook, the CNS program is a normal protocol that runs from Nov. 1 through March 31.

Shelters such as the St. Francis House and GRACE Marketplace, 3055 NE 28th Ave, will provide shelter services as long the temperature remains below 45 degrees.

The CNS program is activated to serve additional people in need of shelter and ensures they will have a warm place to stay.

St. Francis House can normally house between 35 to 40 people, but due to the CNS program being in place, they can now accept 30 additional people.

Check-in for the St. Francis House will run from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday night. Katelyn Drummet, spokeswoman for the St. Francis House, said they will be testing those who need a home for COVID-19 with a rapid test.

But never fear: If the test returns positive, the St. Francis House will send those in need to a motel and get them into quarantine.

Also, community members in need of a home seeking shelter at the St. Francis House will also need a blue police clearance card issued from the Gainesville City Police Department.

St. Francis House, located on 413 S Main St., is a family shelter; the blue card lets staff know that there are no active warrants for any violent or sexual offenses, Drummet said.

The shelter will also be accepting donations for the coming cold nights as well. The St. Francis House will be accepting coats, jackets, socks, sleeping bags and tents.

Donated items must be new and unused. Donations times run daily between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Plant care during the cold days

For the coming cold weekend, potted plants should be brought indoors for warmth to avoid frost damage.

However, if you can't bring your plants inside, Tatiana Sanchez, commercial horticulture agent for UF/IFAS in Alachua County, said plants should be covered with a frost cloth, which can be purchased at either Lowes or Home Depot. If a frost cloth is not available, then a light blanket will suffice.

"The material of the cover that they decide to use should be light enough that it lets plants breathe and covers them really well so wind doesn't enter," Sanchez said.

Sanchez said plant owners should cover the whole plant and not just the top.

Plant owners should also try to move their plants closer to their home so that way home structures can protect them from the harsh wind.

Sanchez also recommends that plant owners water their plants before the freeze.

"What ends up happening is that the water loses its heat slowly over the hours into the colder temperatures and so that helps protect those roots. And now if the cold is pretty bad and a lot of the above-ground parts get burned, then as long as the roots are fine, the plant is going to recover," Sanchez said.

Another tip is to place mulch around trees. However, Sanchez said to be careful not to cover the base with mulch because it could suffocate the plant.

She said plant owners should avoid covering their plants with plastic in place of cloth. She also said not to prune the frost damage on a plant until after the freeze has passed.

Plant owners also shouldn't use fertilizer. There is a fertilizer restriction in Alachua County that prohibits people from fertilizing their plants with fertilizer that contains nitrogen and phosphorus. The ordinance is in place from the month of July through February.

She also suggested if you live outside of Alachua County to check your fertilizer ordinances.

Cold weather will be leaving swiftly

Shashy, at the National Weather Service, said the temperatures will rebound quickly.

"The system is pretty progressive," he said. "It will be moving out pretty quickly. So we will get a rapid warming trend."

On Monday, the low temperature will be in the mid-30s, with highs in the mid-60s. On Tuesday, the low is expected to be near 40 degrees with a high near 70 degrees.

The average temperature for Gainesville in late January is 43 degrees for the low and 67 degrees for a high. In Ocala, the average is 46 degrees for the low and 71 for the high.

On Wednesday, the low is expected to be in the mid-50s and highs in the mid-70s, about 10 degrees above normal in Gainesville and about five degrees above normal in Ocala.

The county’s official forecast is issued by the National Weather Service in Jacksonville, while the Star-Banner's and The Sun's weather pages use AccuWeather forecasts. Sometimes those predictions differ.

Temperatures can vary significantly throughout these counties, especially in Marion. Temperatures are often several degrees cooler in northern and western Marion County than the official forecasts.

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Cold weekend expected for the city of Gainesville

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