Is cold weather a threat in the sunshine state? Yes! During the harsh winter of 1989-1990, 26 Floridians died of hypothermia.
The normally mild winter temperatures make Florida the place many want to be during the winter. Those mild temperatures and relatively balmy breezes create dangerous situations where winter visitors and residents don’t pay attention to or are unprepared for those bitterly cold periods which Florida does experience.
Many Florida homes lack adequate heating and insulation for extended periods of near freezing weather and the Florida outdoor lifestyle leads to danger for those not prepared. Severe cold “snaps” occur in Florida at least once a year. Although these temperatures may not be as low as the temperatures of the Mid-West or New England states, these low temperatures are dangerously cold.
In addition to the actual low temperatures sometimes experienced across the Sunshine State, when strong winds combine with cold temperatures, the heat loss from a person's skin can be accelerated. This is called the wind chill. The wind chill can make it feel like it is much colder outside than what the actual temperature is. The National Weather Service will issue Frost Advisories, Wind Chill Advisories, Watches or Warnings, along with Freeze and Hard Freeze Watches and Warnings when cold weather threatens an area.
When cold weather is in the forecast, it is important to remember the “5 Ps of Cold Weather Safety.” The "5 Ps" are:
Protect People: Remember to dress in layers and wear a hat and gloves. It is important to try to stay out of the wind and to stay dry. Also, remember to check on young children and the elderly who are the most sensitive to cold weather.
Protect Pets: If cold weather is in the forecast, be sure to bring outdoor pets inside or give them a warm shelter to stay in.
Protect Plants: Cover cold sensitive plants to protect them from the dangerous temperatures.
Protect Pipes: Cover pipes and allow outdoor faucets to slowly drip to prevent from freezing and breaking.
Practice Fire Safety: Use safe heating sources indoors. Do not use fuel-burning devices such as grills; they release carbon monoxide, which is a deadly gas. Also, make sure to use space heaters according to their instructions and be attentive to open flames.
Terms to Know & Understand Winter
When strong winds combine with cold outside conditions, the heat loss from a person's skin can be accelerated. This is called the wind chill. The wind chill can make it feel like it is much colder outside than the actual temperature.
Freeze / Hard Freeze
A freeze occurs anytime the temperatures fall below freezing (32 degrees F) for a certain duration of time. The weather criterion for a freeze or hard freeze event to occur varies depending on your location within the state. Any form of a freeze will significantly damage crops and other sensitive outdoor vegetation. When the temperatures fall this low, it can become very dangerous for anyone to stay outside for a prolonged period of time.
A notification issued by the National Weather Service to make agricultural interests and the public aware of anticipated freeze conditions over a large area.
Frost forms when the air temperature is near or slightly above freezing (32-36 degrees F) and the winds are calm. Frost can kill or cause frost-burn to sensitive outdoor plants.
A winter storm is hazardous weather in the form of heavy snow, freezing rain, or sleet. Although winter storms are rare in Florida, if a winter storm is in the forecast, you should make sure your Family Disaster Plan and Disaster Supply Kit is up-to-date because winter storms may cause widespread power outages and make travel very difficult.
Remember: Children and the elderly are most susceptible to injury and death from extreme cold!