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Friday, May 25, 2018
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Goodbye 70s. Hello freeze watch. Cold spell headed for Tampa Bay.

Did everyone enjoy the cool, sunny weather? Because itís over now.

Itís about to get very chilly, Tampa Bay. A rush of arctic air is headed our way, bringing another cold spell. Daytime temperatures will be in the low 60s on Wednesday, but overnight temperatures will plunge into the 20s and 30s.

The National Weather Service already declared a freeze watch for the Tampa Bay region through Thursday morning. Itís time to bring pets inside, cover up plants and check on those most vulnerable to low temperatures. Shelters were opened in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties.

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The silver-lining, 10Weather WTSP Meteorologist Ric Kearbey said, is that this cold snap wonít last as long as the one that hit earlier this month.

"Itís not that severe. Itís here and gone," Kearbey said. "Not like the last one that lingered."

Wednesdayís high is projected to be 61. Then northwest winds will kick in and temperatures will plummet. St. Petersburg will see the highest low at 36, while Clearwater and Tampa get the low 30s. Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties could all see temperatures in the 20s.

Wednesday will see "one mega-cold night," Kearbey said. Donít be surprised if the weather service declares a freeze warning hours beforehand, signaling that temperatures will drop below 28 degrees, threatening plants.

"Thatís a rough night for pets that are outside," Kearbey said, and for humans, too. "Keep anyone in mind that may need shelter."

Thursday will actually be a tad colder during the day with a high of 56. But the lows let up that night, stopping in the upper 30s.

It gets warmer closer to the weekend. Friday will see a high of 64 and then the 70s return Saturday and Sunday.

"This is like a weekend trip," Kearbey said. "Itís here and then gone fast."

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For bay area farmers and nurseries, however, thereís nothing fast about a cold snap. It takes days of work to prepare before a cold snap before it arrives, and more work to recover after one.

Kate Steele, 24, explained how Canterbury Farms Wholesale Nursery in Hudson prepares its 80,000 plants for a cold spell.

Once a freeze watch is imminent, the staff of 15 start stacking and packing plants together so they can be covered in a special fabric. It allows moisture to pass through but not ice.

Then when the freeze passes, the workers have to go back out, unpack everything, water the plants and get them some sun.

If temperatures reach the 20s or below for an extended period, then the nursery will attempt a Hail Mary: Theyíll turn on the sprinklers and try to freeze the plants to protect them from frost.

"Itís a last resort," Steele said. "Youíre going to lose everything, so you better freeze it."

Thatís not something homeowners should try, though. Instead, they should just try to cover up their most vulnerable plants with heavy blankets or burlap. Sheets are too light, the frost will go right through them.

Plants can usually survive a first frost, Steele said, but not a second. Still, the dead ones could return in March, she said, "as long as you put the work in."

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