MANATEE -- The National Weather Service in Ruskin will place Manatee County in a two-day freeze watch starting Monday night and ending Wednesday afternoon.
The ominous watch is due to the "polar vortex," which is sending a massive wave of frigid air into the United States directly from the North Pole.
"Tuesday night into Wednesday morning we will see our coldest weather from this front, with low temperatures in the upper 20s to mid-30s," said Rodney Wynn, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
Freezing conditions in Manatee County would be the first of an otherwise warm winter.
December 2013 averaged 69.1 degrees, the sixth-warm
est December ever recorded for Sarasota and Manatee counties, Wynn said.
But real winter arrives this week delivering a cold mass that has driven temperatures well under zero in most other parts of the nation, particularly the Midwest and East Coast.
Monday daytime temperatures in Manatee County will be in the upper 60s with a slight chance of showers as the front arrives, Wynn said.
Winds will pick up, shifting to the north.
"There will be a rapid cool-down Monday night," Wynn said. "By Monday night, the temperatures will be 40s on the coast and upper 30s inland and it will continue to drop."
Tuesday morning temperatures will bottom out around 29 with wind chill factored in on the coast and 24 degrees with wind chill in eastern Manatee, Wynn said. Tuesday daytime is forecast to warm only to the lower 50s.
The real cold hits Tuesday night with temperatures hovering between the upper 20s to mid-30s through Wednesday morning, Wynn said.
"At 7 a.m. Wednesday in Manatee it will be 30 degrees along the coast but will feel like 21 degrees with wind chill and it will be 25 degrees in eastern Manatee but feel like 14 degrees with wind chill," Wynn said.
It will warm up fast after the frigid morning, reaching the 70s later Wednesday as the front fades, Wynn said.
Manatee's average of 69.1 degrees last December is well off the record warm for December, which is 71.2 degrees in 1931.
Many Manatee residents recall winter 2010, which ranked as the fourth-coldest winter all time with a 58.2 degree average.
The coldest Manatee County winter was 1977 when the average temperature for December, January and February was 55.8 degrees, Wynn said.
The National Weather Service's official Manatee recording station is the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. The coldest temperature ever recorded there was 20 degrees in 1983, Wynn said.
Richard Dymond, Bradenton Herald crime reporter, can be reached at email@example.com.