Hey GasMan...Don't take your Voodoo Doll Back Yet
Wintry chill on the way
Sun staff writer
December 19. 2004 6:01AM
Grab the mittens and fire up the stove: Record-setting cold may be coming.
In what could mark the lowest temperatures recorded in Gainesville this year, the National Weather Service in Jacksonville is predicting two days of unseasonably bitter weather beginning tonight, with mercury expected to dip below 30 degrees by Monday morning.
By daybreak Tuesday, temperatures could be as low as 21 degrees, said Pete Keegan, a weather service meteorologist. Those temperatures would best the day's all-time low by one degree, set Dec. 21 last year.
"If we drop down to the 20s and only get into the 40s during the day, they are probably going to be the coldest days so far" this winter, Keegan said.
The coldest December day recorded in Gainesville was in 1962, when the temperature plummeted to a blustery 13 degrees. So far, the coldest day of winter 2004 was Wednesday, when the low hit 30 degrees.
News of the coming chill prompted some to begin preparing for the region's first real bout of holiday-season cold.
Jaret Daniels, lepidopterist at the Florida Museum of Natural History's Butterfly Rainforest, said he would be busy today monitoring the thermometer to maintain a warm environment for the colorful critters he cares for.
On Saturday, Daniels said museum staff were readying a number of tools to brace for the weather service's forecast, including heaters, wind-control panels and a fog system to prevent freezing.
"They are essentially solar-powered creatures," Daniels said of the butterfly museum's winged inhabitants.
"They need the sun to remain active, (and) they hunker down like you or I would if it's cold outside."
Beyond Gainesville's living museum, local emergency officials also were gearing up for a busy start to the work week. Shawna Traub, public information officer for Gainesville Fire Rescue, warned area residents to use common sense during the cold weather when lighting heaters or using electric blankets.
Each year, the number of residential house fires nationwide increases during cold-weather months, when homeowners turn to heating devices to stay warm. Since Dec. 1, GFR has responded to five residential building fires.
"We've already had some cold snaps," and the department has "already gotten over the hump" of early season fires linked to malfunctioning heaters, Traub said.
But anytime the temperature dips into the realm of frozen pipes and frigid pets, trouble can return, Traub added.
"People may start to use space heaters. Keep them away from drapes, furniture, and never leave them unattended."
Relief from the week's cold front - and the hazards with home heating - could come Tuesday afternoon, when temperatures are forecast to climb into the mid-60s. Overnight Tuesday, expect clear skies with lows in the low 40s.