Temperatures plunge across Florida as arctic front arrives | will it snow in florida

If you ventured onto the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk Saturday, you may have encountered a rare sight: walkers bundled in knit hats, scarves, and mittens.

Floridians everywhere woke up to one of the coldest Christmas Eves in decades Saturday morning, as the much-anticipated cold front arrived overnight and made its presence known immediately.

The front, part of the trough bringing frigid temperatures and blizzards to much of the U.S., moved rapidly across the state on Friday, the arctic air behind it plunging even the most southern regions of the state into the 40s and 30s.

“Temperatures have been dropping like a rock as northerly flow ushers in cold continental air,” forecasters with the National Weather Service Miami said in an update issued at 2 a.m. Saturday morning.

That air had already blanketed much of the rest of the country. South Florida held out the longest, but was not spared.

“As of 8 PM South Florida is the last holdout of warm temperatures in the eastern CONUS. However, as you all know by this point, it won’t last long,” the National Weather Service tweeted Friday night.

The front had already moved off and was over Cuba as of Saturday afternoon, forecasters said, but the cold will linger longer than predicted earlier this week. Emergency shelters opened in Broward and Palm Beach counties Friday and remained open Saturday, in some places extending to Monday.

Despite travel worries, many of those traveling into and out of South Florida made it home to their families Friday, as local airports were spared widespread cancellations.

Forecasters said Friday that temperatures were going to be even colder this weekend than predicted earlier in the week, and so far, they have been right.

With temperatures dipping down to the 40's, Anna Lizano and Camila Collado bundle up as they try to keep warm along the broad walk on Hollywood beach on Saturday.

Those in interior areas of the South Florida region began their Saturdays with lows in the low-mid 30s, while southern and coastal areas sat in the 40s.

With the wind-chill factor, though, it felt even colder than that — between middle to upper 20s west of Lake Okeechobee, in the middle 30s in Palm Beach County and from upper 30s to lower 40s in Broward and Miami-Dade County, the weather service forecast said.

A wind chill advisory for Palm Beach County and inland Broward County expired Saturday morning, but the weather service issued a second one for Palm Beach and inland Broward Saturday night. A freeze watch was canceled for Glades County, which borders Palm Beach County to the west, in the morning, but a second watch remains in effect for Saturday night.

The Saturday highs for coastal areas remained in the upper 50s. It may not be the best weekend to go to the beach.

“Most folks will not see 60 degrees,” said Robert Garcia, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service.

Even Miami dipped below 50 degrees Saturday morning, the first time this year since Jan. 31: the registered temperature was 48 degrees Saturday, one degree lower than 49 on Jan. 31.

Temperatures will return to the low 40s Christmas Eve night in most areas, dropping further to the low to mid 30s in inland Palm Beach County.

“It’ll be another cold night across South Florida, so apologies ahead of time to Santa if he was looking forward to a brief respite from the bitter cold in the rest of the country,” wrote one National Weather Service Miami meteorologist in a forecast Saturday afternoon.

Christmas Day will likely be even colder than Christmas Eve, also with highs in the 50s, forecasters said.

Still, the holiday weather has yet to break any records.

The coldest Christmas in Miami reached 30 degrees in 1989, said Larry Kelly, a National Weather Service Miami meteorologist. “We’re not going to hit those kind of cold temperatures,” he said.

Some South Floridians may be turning on their heat for the first time in a long while, which could present safety issues.

“For many residents this may be the first time turning on the heater in your apartment home or this might be the first time in a while. As a reminder, once the heater is turned on you may notice a burning smell,” a Boca Raton apartment complex warned in a notice sent to residents Saturday.

Officials are warning Floridians to beware of fires from space heaters.

A fire erupted in a multi-family dwelling in Fort Lauderdale early Saturday morning, but officials did not say the cause of the fire or if it was weather-related.

“Due to the size and potential fire load, personnel deployed multiple attack lines to quickly control and extinguish the fire,” said Garrett Pingol, Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Battalion Chief.

The American Red Cross temporarily relocated two adults as a result of the fire, but no one was injured.

The cold isn’t only affecting people. Falling iguanas present another hazard.

“You may notice iguanas falling from trees or lying perfectly still appearing frozen to retain heat,” the apartment complex notice continued. “Please do not be alarmed. Once the temperature gets warmer, they will go back to normal.”

And in the water, at least 20 manatees flocked to the warm water that flows outside of Florida Power & Light’s Clean Energy Center. The mammals are very sensitive to cold.

The lagoon typically averages one manatee a day, spokesperson Angela Ledford told CBS 12. The sudden surge in numbers suggests that more could be on the way soon.

Northern Florida cities such as Tallahassee saw temperatures in the low 20s Saturday morning, and they will drop into the teens overnight into Christmas. The wind chill made many of those cities feel like they were in the single digits, the National Weather Service Tallahassee said.

The weather service issued a hard freeze warning for areas of the Panhandle from 3 a.m. to 10 a.m. Sunday, presenting a danger to crops in addition to people.

“Frost and freeze conditions will kill crops, other sensitive vegetation and possibly damage unprotected outdoor plumbing,” the National Weather Service Tallahassee forecast said. “Take steps now to protect tender plants from the cold.”

Temperatures have reached near-to-below freezing as far south as Tampa, where Levy and inland Citrus counties were also under a hard freeze warning overnight.

In Orlando, the cold did not deter families from heading to Disney World, as they bought hooded sweatshirts from gift shops and then stopped for ice cream at Häagen-Dazs.

Stella Bueno, 2, went with her parents to a carousel, dragging a flannel blanket on the way.

“She’s liking the cold weather,” said the father, Guilherme, who is originally from Brazil and wore his black coat for the first time all year. “I don’t know how long she will last, though.”

The same was true in Cocoa Beach, where surfers in Santa costumes braved the cold air and water on surfboards, boogie boards and paddle boards for the 14th annual Surfing Santas festival.

Close to 140 surfers and almost 10,000 spectators showed up Saturday, and a beachside restaurant distributed free hot cocoa to help them stay warm, according to organizers.

Florida isn’t seeing anything like more northern areas of the U.S., where mass power outages combined with blizzards, below-freezing temperatures and dangerous road conditions made for a harrowing Christmas Eve.

Across the country, nearly 2 million homes and businesses were without power Saturday, and some utilities warned that it could be days until power is restored. At least 10 people have died from car crashes on icy roads, exposure and storm damage, officials said.

Four died in a pileup crash involving 50 vehicles on the Ohio Turnpike Friday. In Colorado Springs, police said they found the dead body of a person who appeared to be homeless as subzero temperatures and snow descended upon the region.

Local officials declared emergencies ahead of the temperature drop and multiple cold weather shelters will stay open throughout the weekend.

On Thursday, Broward County’s Homeless Initiative Partnership, including the Sheriff’s Office’s Homeless Outreach Team and the Multi-Agency Homeless Taskforce, began distributing blankets and cold weather gear to people who are homeless.

Those who need the services, or residents who know somebody who might need help, are encouraged to call the Homeless Helpline at 954-563-4357 or go to the Homeless Services website.

Broward County declared a “cold weather emergency” from 6 p.m. Friday to 9 a.m. Sunday. The county activated cold weather shelters for Saturday and Sunday from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. at:

  • Hope South Florida, 1100 N. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale.
  • The Salvation Army, 1445 Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale.

Palm Beach County announced that it had activated its Cold Weather Emergency Shelter Plan for Western Palm Beach County on Friday morning. The county has one shelter open in Belle Glade on Saturday night, beginning at 7 p.m. at:

  • Belle Glade Transitional Shelter and Lake Village at the Glades, 341 NW 11th Street, Belle Glade.

Miami-Dade County’s Homeless Trust also tweeted Friday that it had activated its Cold Weather Emergency Plan. The Trust did not say which shelters it would open.

Travelers wait in a long line to check their luggage at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Friday.

A small percentage of flights were canceled out of Palm Beach International Airport, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Miami International Airport on Saturday, according to FlightAware.

South Florida airports anticipate an influx of travelers through the new year. According to a Broward County news release, the Fort Lauderdale airport is expecting nearly 1.6 million passengers to pass through between Dec. 21 through Jan. 3, 2023, roughly 13% busier than 2021.

As of Saturday evening, nearly 300 flights had been delayed at the Fort Lauderdale airport, with over 80 canceled, according to FlightAware. Half of those flights were with Southwest Airlines.

Friday was the worst day of the week so far, however, with nearly 400 flights delayed and almost 90 canceled. On Thursday, over 450 flights were delayed and more than 20 were canceled.

But for customers without cancellations or delays, traveling Friday was perhaps smoother than normal.

“I actually thought I was going to be late,” said Manuel Mair, 52, as he waited for his flight to Chicago. “I got here an hour before my flight, checked in, and no one was there. People were telling me Friday is one of the worst days to travel, but it’s really not bad at all.”

Mair was on his way to Montana, where the high was zero degrees Friday but will leap to 30 degrees Saturday.

“I’m timing it perfect,” he said.

Travelers arrive for their flights at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Friday, Dec. 23, 2022, in Fort Lauderdale.

The storm has made for some turbulent flights, even when timing goes smoothly. Keith Moran, a pilot and first officer for Frontier Airlines, said he hasn’t had any delays or cancellations so far, but did navigate through some rain and gusty winds.

Moran‘s flight out of Chicago on Thursday wasn’t one of the thousands canceled.

“We got out just before the snow started falling,” he said. He planned to be back home in Philadelphia in time for Christmas.

At La Guardia airport in New York, Ruby Freeman, 31, a customer service agent with Southwest Airlines, said the quiet scene belied the chaos of the day before, when lines snaked through Terminal B as travelers rushed to beat the weather. Friday was calm, she said, because so many flights have been canceled. “We are completely out of flights,” she said. “The canceled flights won’t even be scheduled until after Christmas.”

Travelers check in for their flights at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Friday.

Information from the New York Times and the Associated Press was used in this report.

Staff writer Shira Moolten can be reached at smoolten@SunSentinel.com

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