St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Freeze warnings issued around state

Wire services
Published November 30, 2003

MIAMI - Temperatures dipped as low as 33 degrees across North Florida early Saturday and forecasters issued another set of freeze warnings for the Panhandle and some northeastern parts of the state.

Red flag fire warnings were also posted for most of the state, because the humidity was expected to drop below 35 percent for more than three hours. Red flag warnings, which indicate an increased risk of wildfires, are also issued if the low humidity is combined with sustained winds of at least 15 mph.

"It is common when you have air this cold and dry for the red flag warning to go along with it," said Pat Welsh, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jacksonville.

A freeze warning was issued for most of inland northeast Florida and the Panhandle.

In the Suwannee Valley, the lows were expected to drop to near-record levels, which range from 26 to 31 degrees, Welsh said.

"It's a little colder than we want for late November," Welsh said. He said northeast Florida would begin warming up today.

A wind chill advisory and a freeze warning were issued for west Central Florida, where it was expected to get as cold as the upper 20s.

The coldest temperature early Saturday - 33 degrees - was recorded in Jacksonville, Pensacola and Perry, about 50 miles southeast of Tallahassee.

But the rest of the state was also hit with a cold spell. Tampa dropped to 45 degrees overnight, and Orlando hit 45 degrees. Miami's low was 56 degrees, compared to 71 the day before.

Extra busy hurricane season comes to an end

MIAMI - The 2003 Atlantic hurricane season was busier than usual and blamed for 62 deaths, but forecasters worry that the relative calm in storm-prone areas won't last.

"This can't keep going," said Bill Gray, a hurricane forecaster at Colorado State University. "Climatology will eventually right itself, and we're going to see more storms, but it's going to be very different. We're going to see hurricane damage like you've never seen it."

The six-month hurricane season, which ends today, produced 14 named storms, including seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes. The worst for the United States was Isabel, which packed 100 mph winds when it made landfall in North Carolina, making it the strongest storm to hit the country since 1999.

Experts had expected the hurricane season to be more active than usual, and it was, exceeding the average of 10 named storms and six hurricanes. This year, the first storm formed more than five weeks before the season's official start. Ana became the first tropical storm to develop in April since record keeping began in 1871.

Although it's not clear why so many hurricanes and tropical storms have been steered away from the United States in recent years, based on historical data, Gray said he expects more to start hitting the United States as soon as next year.

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.