Snow, sleet reported in Central Florida; Manatee bundles up

SATURDAY MORNING UPDATE: Residents in the central part of the state reported seeing snow flurries and sleet early Saturday morning. Forecasters with the National Weather Service in Melbourne say sleet was reported in Brevard and Volusia counties, along with a mixture of rain. Naples had a few snow flurries.

Bob Wimmer called it an "unusual weather event." Temperatures will reach the mid 40s Saturday, with the wind chill making it feel like the lower 30s.

Wimmer says cloudy skies will continue to bring in the cold.

Further south, the forecast called for rain with temperatures in the afternoon in the 50s and mid 30s in the night. -- Associated Press

MANATEE — The all-time Manatee and Sarasota record for consecutive days of overnight temperatures below 40 degrees is 10, set in 2001.

But the thermometer plunge of 2010, which began Sunday and is projected to continue today and run through next week, is expected to tie the record Tuesday, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Rick Davis.

“We are forecasting a 10-day stretch of below 40 degrees from Jan. 3, so we may actually approach the record cold snap for the Bradenton-Sarasota area,” Davis said Friday.

A cold snap is defined by a string of overnight temperatures below 40 degrees.

“The second-longest cold snap in the region is eight days, which was during the winter snow event of January 1977,” Davis said.

Area residents and visitors will wake today to temperatures in the mid-to-upper 30s with very breezy northerly winds bringing possible showers, all part of an Arctic high pressure system that moved into the region Friday and will last through the weekend, Davis said.

“Today will be cold, breezy, cloudy, with a chance of rain,” Davis said. “Today we are not expecting freezing temperatures, but that is not the case for Sunday and Monday mornings, where we will have temps in the mid-20s in the eastern parts of Manatee and Sarasota counties and lower 30s near the coast.”

A slow warming trend will start Monday afternoon, continue through the week and lead to normal temperatures of mid-50s in the morning and mid-70s in the afternoon by Thursday, Davis said.

The cold blast this weekend has resulted in several local cancellations and consequences for the homeless, farmers with crops in the fields and cold sensitive sea turtles, manatees and fish.

Today’s Farmers Market on Main Street in downtown Bradenton has been canceled due to the cold and the possibility of rain, said Tim W. McCann, a spokesman for the city of Bradenton.

“We’ll try again next week,” McCann said.

Today’s Palmetto High School flea market, sponsored by the FFA, has been canceled and rescheduled for the second Saturday in February, said sponsor Julie Tillett.

The Anna Maria Island Privateers yearly Thieves Market scheduled today has also been canceled, said Jackie Waldron, chair of the Thieves Market.

The next event for the Thieves Market is Feb. 13.

The Sunny Shores Plant and Garden sale and pancake breakfast are both still on for today at 115th Street West and 38th Avenue, said Vern Palsrok of Sunny Shores Association. The Florida Wildlife and Conservation Commission recently transported three stranded green sea turtles from Titusville to Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Sarasota because they were suffering from being “cold-stunned,” by the weather, said Haley Rutger, spokeswoman for Mote Marine.

Cold renders turtles lethargic and can shut down their bodily functions, Rutger said.

Two of the three had to be euthanized, not because of the cold but because they were also afflicted with papilloma tumors, Rutger said.

About 500 cold-stunned sea turtles have been collected statewide the last few days, mostly in Brevard County, St. Joseph Bay and the Cape Canaveral area, said Carli Segelson, spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

Biologists expect to see 50 to 100 more sea turtles at each location before the cold snap is over, Segelson added.

“They appear to be lifeless and appear to be dead,” Segelson said. “Biologists are collecting these animals and taking them to rehab centers all over the state. There are an overwhelming number of turtles.”

Manatees can get cold stress syndrome when water gets below 68 degrees, which can lead to death, Segelson said.

Locally, one manatee was rescued recently in St. Petersburg in a canal that opens up into Tampa Bay, Segelson said.

Among fish, light grunt catfish, mojarra, lane snappers and cowfish all have experienced kills during the cold snap, Segelson said.

“Cold weather can kill fish outright or make them more susceptible to disease,” Segelson said.

Segelson said the fish kills have low numbers so far, including the loss of one or two fish at a time.

Close to 140 homeless men showed up at the Salvation Army lodge on 14th Street West Thursday night. But since donations of jackets, gloves, hats and socks for the men has kept pace, the lodge is not in any danger, said Ed Wickman, director of the men’s lodge.

“We’re grateful for the generosity of our residents,” Wickman said. “Every time we are a crisis, they respond in a big way.”

Sarasota’s Salvation Army shelter is running 70 to 80 men, said Brian Pope, director of the Sarasota Salvation Army.

“We have one lady staying in our family shelter who owns a house but can’t afford to get her heater fixed,” Wickman said.

The constant high numbers are putting a bit of a strain on toilet paper and the hot water for showers, Wickman said.

“We usually don’t have this many clients for this long,” Wickman said.

There has been some crop damage on the 9 million acres of agriculture in the state, but nothing catastrophic yet, said Terry McElroy, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“We’ll reevaluate everything after this weekend,” McElroy said.

Related stories from Bradenton Herald