Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) officials are urging residents and visitors throughout Florida to practice fire and cold weather safety as a strong arctic air mass brings freezing temperatures, and cold wind chills to the state through Saturday. Dry and breezy conditions also increase the wildfire risk through the weekend.
Forecasts for the Destin and Santa Rosa Beach area called for a low of 28 degrees for late Thursday going into Friday morning.DeFuniak Springs could see temps as low as 24. A deeper plunge next week could take Destin and Santa Rosa Beach into the mid-20s on Tuesday and Wednesday and DeFuniak to a bonechilling 19 degrees.
Wind chills could reach the teens across North Florida and in the 30s across much of Central and South Florida on Friday.
“Without adequate shelter or heating, the duration of these cold temperatures will present a danger to pipes, pets, plants and persons,” said State Meteorologist Amy Godsey. “We encourage all Floridians to practice cold weather safety, and to protect themselves and their property from risks posed by portable heating sources, and open burning.”
Freeze and Hard Freeze Warnings are in place for 61 of Florida’s 67 counties. Durations of freezing temperatures will range from 4-10 hours across North Florida and northern portions of Central Florida. Durations of freezing temperatures across southern Central Florida and South Florida could last 2-6 hours. Frost is also possible across a large portion of Central and South Florida.
A Freeze Warning means sub-freezing temperatures are imminent or highly likely for at least two hours. A Hard Freeze Warning means sub-freezing temperatures are imminent or highly likely, and will kill crops and other sensitive vegetation. Wind Chill notifications from the National Weather Service mean that the combination of cold temperatures and winds will generate low wind chill values and could lead to hypothermia if precautions are not taken.
In response, Walton County is opening two cold weather shelters to accommodate those in need of respite from the predicted cold weather. The shelters will be open beginning at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday evening.
DeFuniak Springs Community Center
361 North 10th Street
DeFuniak Springs, FL 32433
Call The Matrix for more information 892-1090
Coastal Branch Library/ Community Center
437 Greenway Trail
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
Call Kiwanis Club for more information 974-2071
Residents and visitors should remember the "Five P's" of cold weather safety. The “5 P’s” are: Protecting People, Protecting Plants, Protecting Pets, Protecting Exposed Pipes, and Practicing Fire Safety.
The following actions are important safety measures:
• Stay indoors and use safe heating sources.
• Be aware of the fire danger from space heaters and candles. Keep such devices away from all flammable materials such as curtains and furniture, and install recommended smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
• Indoors: Do not use charcoal or other fuel-burning devices, such as grills that produce carbon monoxide. Install at least one carbon monoxide detector per floor in your home.
• Outdoors: Stay dry and in wind-protected areas.
• Wear multiple layers of loose-fitting, warm clothing.
• Drink non-alcoholic fluids.
• Shelter or bring inside animals, especially pets.
The Division also urges Floridians to become Firewise and to Get A Plan! for their homes and businesses to prevent potentially hazardous wildfires. Along with Firewise prevention measures, officials urge residents to follow these guidelines set by the Division of Forestry:
• Burning yard waste does not require an authorization from the Division of Forestry, but you should check with your local city and county officials to see if there are any restrictions in your area.
• Your fire must be contained to an eight-foot diameter pile or non-combustible barrel and must be at least 25 feet from forests, 25 feet from your house, 50 feet from a paved public road, and 150 feet from other occupied buildings.
• Don't burn on windy days or when humidity is below 30 percent.
• Never leave a fire unattended, and make sure it is out before you leave.
For additional information about severe weather in Florida, and to Get A Plan, visit www.FloridaDisaster.org, Follow FDEM on social media on Twitter at @FLSERT, Instagram @FloridaSERT, Vine @FloridaSERT, Pinterest FloridaSERT and Facebook at www.Facebook.com/FloridaSERT and www.Facebook.com/KidsGetAPlan.