Bradenton under hard freeze warning

MANATEE -- Manatee County is under a hard freeze warning until at least 9 a.m., according to the National Weather Service.

“Tonight, it looks like we’ll have clear skies and the lowest temperatures expected will be 30 degrees near the coast, and as you move in the inner section, in the 20s,” NWS forecaster Richard Rude said early this afternoon.

The wind will be blowing north from 10 to 15 mph.

Tuesday morning, the wind chill will be 13 to 18 degrees. Similar conditions are expected Tuesday night.

Other counties in the affected area include Sarasota, Citrus, De Soto, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Levy, Pasco, Polk and Sumter.

A less severe hard freeze watch is in place until 9 a.m. Wednesday, according to the weather service.

As of just before 1 p.m., it was 52 degrees at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, but 30 mph winds from northwest -- with gusts of up to 40 mph -- made it feel like 45.

Gov. Charlie Crist has declared a state of emergency to relax restrictions in getting harvested crops moved to processing centers before the cold kills them.

State officials are urging residents to use safe heating sources and bring pets inside. And the Florida Highway Patrol warns that it's illegal to leave a car running - even if it does keep the inside toasty while you make a quick stop.

High winds are keeping a cruise ship and two cargo ships from getting into Tampa Bay.

The U.S. Coast Guard said Monday the pilots of the Carnival Inspiration and the two cargo vessels are worried about negotiating the pylons of the Sunshine Skyway bridge in high winds. And conditions were getting worse.

A Carnival spokesman said the 2,000-passenger, 855-foot Inspiration was due in to the port in downtown Tampa at around 8 a.m. Monday.

Petty Officer 1st Class Mariana O'Leary, a Coast Guard spokeswoman, said it's up to the pilots of the ships to determine when it's safe to pass under the bridge, which spans the mouth of Tampa Bay.

Farmers are on alert over predictions of a hard freeze, which occurs when temperatures drop to 27 degrees or below for at least three hours.

The Associated Press and St. Petersburg Times contributed to this report.