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Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Panhandle could see snow as Bay area gets more freezing temps

TAMPA - A Florida snowfall? Maybe. Another cold front working its way toward a Thursday arrival could bring snow and sleet to parts of the Florida Panhandle, though the frozen, fluffy stuff isn't expected to come close to the Tampa Bay area. The National Weather Service office in Tallahassee says there's a 50 percent chance for snow and sleet Thursday in the western Panhandle and a 30 percent chance for snow that night.
Meteorologists put snow and sleet in the forecast roughly from the town of Crestview west. Crestview is north of Fort Walton Beach. The airport there is often one of the coldest weather stations in the state. Snow and sleet are not expected as far east as Tallahassee. Forecasters expect a blast of frigid air to move quickly over the western Panhandle on the tail of rain Thursday. That cold air could arrive fast enough to turn the rain into snow and sleet. But it should turn back to rain by the time the front passes east of Crestview. In the Tampa Bay area, clouds that moved in about midnight Monday saved residents from another freezing morning today as temperatures stayed about 5 degrees above Monday's frigid start. The warmer temperatures meant berry farmers had no reason to turn on sprinklers. Forecasters expected much colder temperatures this morning, with freeze warnings from Pasco County south and hard freeze warnings from Hernando County north, meaning temperatures were predicted to fall below 27 degrees for several hours in the Nature Coast. And the weather late Monday was well on the way to fulfilling the forecasts as temperatures kept a steady march downward after sundown. But clouds that started moving in from the Gulf of Mexico steadied the plummeting temperatures. The airport in Plant City registered 34 degrees about midnight when the sky was clear, but temperatures rose to 37 by 1 a.m. Temperatures held fairly steady at Tampa International Airport after the clouds showed up, dropping only 4 degrees to 36 before dawn. Tampa Executive Airport, also known as Vandenberg, was close to freezing at 34 by midnight and rose to 37 an hour later. Brooksville was well below freezing at 29 degrees at 11 p.m. but jumped to 34 by midnight. Temperatures fall the most during clear nights; clouds act as a blanket, trapping the heat. The same thing happened Saturday night into Sunday morning, when clouds skidded off the Gulf and kept temperatures just above freezing in eastern Hillsborough County. Escaping this morning's freeze doesn't mean the cold spell is over. The National Weather Service forecasts temperatures of freezing or lower for tonight and Wednesday night. Today's afternoon highs are expected to stay in the mid-50s around Tampa and in the 40s farther north.

Reporter Neil Johnson can be reached at (813) 259-7731.

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