MANATEE — Sick of the deep freeze? Remember balmy Florida?
It’s coming back.
Temperatures, which tied the Manatee-Sarasota counties’ record Tuesday morning for 10 straight days of overnight temperatures below 40 degrees, will be inching upward today to the low 60s, according to the National Weather Service in Ruskin.
And by Thursday, predictions call for near 70 degrees, what Floridians expect in the winter.
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“Today, it’s going to feel pretty nice,” explained meterologist Ernie Jillson on Tuesday. “It’ll still be well below normal, the upper 50s, close to 60s. It’s going to feel great, but it’s still 10 degrees below normal.”
Tuesday’s low reported at Myakka River State Park was 26 degrees; Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport reported 28 degrees, Jillson said. Early Monday, the airport hit a record low of 28 degrees, 1 degree colder than the old record set in 1959, according to weather service records.
If the low dips tonight again below 40 degrees, it will break the all-time record for consecutive days under 40 degrees set in 2001, Jillson confirmed.
“It will be close, but right now, we are forecasting something like 37-38 degrees, so that would do it,” he said.
Another cold front predicted for the weekend, he said, would be “not nearly as cold as before.”
The forecast calls for partly sunny weather Friday, with a high of 74; chance of showers Friday night with a low of 62, and on Saturday, a chance of showers with a high of 73 and a low near 57, Jillson said.
Farmers spent Tuesday tallying the damage of the numbing cold.
Tomato growers in Manatee County may have dodged a bullet, since most of them happened to be between seasons when the freezes occurred, said Bob Spencer, a partner at West Coast Tomato, of Palmetto.
“Tomatoes are between season,” Spencer explained. “Normally, people plant between the 10th and the 20th of January, and with the bad weather, they put off planting. Anybody planting before that was a gambler to the utmost.”
However, crop damage in Homestead and Immokalee was “pretty extensive,” and most tomatoes to be harvested in the next 60 days were frozen, Spencer said.
“We’re definitely looking at higher prices,” he noted. “Most tomatoes sold in Florida for the next 60 days will be from Mexico.”
Spencer said his company “picked ahead,” and will be able to supply U.S. tomatoes for 10-15 days, but from then on, it will be Mexican or Canadian tomatoes.
“Overall, it’s one of the worst freezes in the last 35 years,” he said.
Ralph Garrison, president of the Manatee County Farm Bureau, said so many days of consecutive cold weather was unprecedented.
“All the vegetable crops are pretty much gone, if there were any in there,” he said.
“My assumption is that, although it takes awhile (to assess), there’s going to be some heavy damage because of the duration,” Garrison predicted.
Strawberry farmers, who have suffered through almost two weeks of sleepless nights looking after their delicate crop, are still trying to evaluate the condition of their plants, he said.
“The jury’s still out, it’s still too early to assess it,” he said. “By the weekend, we may be able to tell crop-by-crop descriptions.” said Garrison, who is also the owner of Suncoast Plant Nursery, in East Manatee.
Five students and a guest at Sarasota’s Ringling College of Art & Design became ill Tuesday morning as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning from a malfunctioning valve on a gas heater at a house owned by the college, said Capt. Susan Pearson, public information officer for the Sarasota County Fire Department.
Six people from the house at 3015 Old Bradenton Road were taken to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, along with a half dozen firefighters who were also exposed to the gas. No one was seriously injured, she added.
Mote Marine Laboratory reported it is treating 13 cold-stunned sea turtles, with others likely to arrive throughout the week. Four of the initial arrivals had to be euthanized and another seven died over the weekend, officials said.
All of the turtles are now in water, with the water temperature slowly being raised, they said. The turtles are receiving supportive care and are being offered food, they said.
At the local Salvation Army shelter, the normal number of clients leapt from 105 to about 140 due to the cold, said Ed Wickman, men’s shelter manager.
He wanted to thank generous residents who inundated the shelter with donations of warm clothes and blankets.
“Manatee County has been more than generous, said Wickman.
“We’re busting at the seams with blankets and jackets, cold weather gloves. We really appreciate it.”