MANATEE -- It may not look like winter in Manatee County but it sure feels like it with temperatures expected to hover close to freezing for the remainder of the week.
The National Weather Service has issued a freeze warning for Manatee and Sarasota counties until 9 a.m. this morning, leaving local farmers and nursery owners concerned about crops.
During last year’s cold snaps, Mariposa Nursery lost about 40 percent of their plants because of the weather. And just like last year, nursery owner Francois Brun-Wibaux and his staff are doing their best to keep their losses minimal.
“We covered some of our plants and the rest we freeze” with a layer of water, said Burn-Wibaux, who encourages people to bring their plants indoors if possible or cover them in “anything but plastic,” to keep them from dying.
As for the rest of the week, lows each day will be in the mid-to-low 30s, with inland parts of the county reaching the upper 20s, according to Jennifer McNactt, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Ruskin.
There will be a brief respite Sunday before another cold front moves through, she said.
“Sunday morning is going to be briefly warmer. The low will be in the lower 50s,” McNactt said.
That cold front will again drop low temperature to the mid-to-low 30s.
In the more inland areas temperatures are expected to be in the upper 20s, McNactt said.
It’s not just plants that need protecting when the weather turns cooler.
Lynn McChristian, of the Insurance Information Institute, wants homeowners and renters to play it safe while warming up.
“One thing I’m concerned about is space heaters. Pay attention to where you leave them,” McChristian said, warning against placing them near anything flammable such as curtains.
Those with central air heaters should be OK to turn them on if “the unit is serviced once a year.”
It’s a good idea to check to see if smoke alarms are in working order and, according to McChristian, those with chimneys should be certain that the flue has been cleaned.
“If you use it often, remember, there is build up in there,” McChristian said.
Since fire is such a big concern in the winter, McChristian warns renters to get insurance.
“Renters often underestimate the value of their possessions and to learn of that value too late, such as after a fire, is a lesson that does not have to be learned the hard way,” she said.
The county’s homeless
Mike Rantz is among hundreds of homeless in the county who do not have a warm place of their own to go to on cold nights. Instead, they turn to the Salvation Army.
In addition to meals, the organization offers free boarding during cold fronts.
“It’s really hard to tell how many people will come. We are a 102-bed facility, but the last cold snap we had 125 people come,” said Christine Smith, director of community relations and development.
During last year’s cold snaps, she said their numbers climbed to about 180. To accommodate extra people, they open up extra rooms in the facility and lay down mats for people to sleep on.
Anyone who stays the night also gets a pillow, blanket and sheets to put on top of their bed or mat. Additional blankets and jackets are also provided.
On Tuesday night, Bradenton Marauders third baseman Pedro Alvarez and some of his teammates helped served meals.
“It feels good to be here helping these people and giving them some food,” Alvarez said.
Rantz appreciated it as well.
“It means a lot to me. Because of them, I am not on the street freezing. It’s a big help.” said Rantz, 46, as he waited to get a room at the Salvation Army. “The food is good and they always give blankets, pillows and sheets that are cleaned daily.”
Major Bob Parker, area coordinator, and corps officers said they provide these services throughout the year and are always in need of volunteers and donations to be able to keep the facility running.
This time of year they are in need of blankets, mittens, gloves, jackets and other winter apparel, along with canned foods.
“For whatever reason, not everyone wants to stay the night here,” Parker said, but they are usually given a blanket or a jacket to get through the cold.
Donations can be dropped off at the administrative offices, 1204 Tamiami Trail.