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Temperatures plunge as cold front moves through state ahead of holiday weekend

Forecast wind chills Friday night
Meteorologist Justin Ballard
Florida Public Radio Emergency Network
Wind chills will drop into the single digits across the Panhandle Friday night, while other areas fall into the teens and 20s at times.

A biting chill is forecast to bring temperatures crashing across the state as an Arctic air mass settles in ahead of the holiday weekend.

Surface analysis Friday afternoon depicts a powerful cold front moving through the Sunshine State. Following this cold frontal passage, temperatures are forecast to plunge and dangerously low wind chill will be possible for much of the state. Forecast lows in the Panhandle Friday are expected to drop into the teens, with lows across North Florida and along the Nature Coast falling into the lower 20s. For this reason, a Hard Freeze Warning is in place from just north of Tampa toward Jacksonville and Pensacola. Another night of hard freezing conditions is forecast Saturday night as lows again fall into the teens and lower 20s. In the Orlando and Tampa area, lows near and below-freezing could occur for the first time since January 2018 Friday night, prompting a Freeze Warning to be issued from the I-4 corridor to the northern shore of Lake Okeechobee. Lows Friday night should remain in the upper 30s and lower 40s from Fort Myers to Miami, safely avoiding potential freeze alerts.

A biting edge to the chill will be provided courtesy of stout northwesterly winds Friday afternoon through Saturday morning. In the Panhandle and North Florida, wind chills could be as low as the single digits and teens. From Tampa to Orlando, wind chills are expected to occasionally drop into the lower and middle 20s. Even across South Florida, wind chills are forecast to drop into the upper 20s and lower 30s from Fort Myers to west of Fort Lauderdale. Most of the state is under a Wind Chill Advisory, which occurs when prolonged exposure to the elements could result in frostbite or hypothermia in as little as 30 minutes. All residents are encouraged to dress in layers overnight Friday through early Saturday morning, even in locations not specifically under a Wind Chill Advisory.

High temperatures this weekend will be significantly below-average. Locations in the Panhandle and North Florida will likely spend the majority of Christmas Eve Day below 40, with a number of spots near and along I-10 likely remaining in the 30s. Closer to Orlando and Tampa, highs on Christmas Eve Day will be in the middle and upper 40s, with highs near 60 degrees in South Florida. Christmas Day will feature continued chill, with highs forecast to be a degree or two higher than Christmas Eve Day.

Residents are encouraged to prepare their homes for the winter chill over the next day or so before the heart of the cold air moves in on Friday. To avoid expensive issues with burst pipes, let water from faucets slowly drip while temperatures are below freezing. Residents are also encouraged to leave cabinets open under sinks to ensure heated air surrounds plumbing indoors. While this blast of winter chill is intense, it will be short-lived. Temperatures into next week will start to gradually warm up across the entire state, with the Climate Prediction Center outlook depicting the potential for above-average temperatures for New Year's Day.