Members of the swim team from Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., swim laps as steam rises from the pool at the Fort Lauderdale Aquatics Center, Tuesday, Dec. 7.
South Floridians woke up Tuesday morning to temperatures hovering around the very low 40s that sometimes felt like the mid-30s because of the wind chill factor.
In Fort Lauderdale, a low temperature record of 42 degrees for Dec. 7 that had been in place for 169 years was broken, said Dan Gregoria, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami.
“It was at 7:24 a.m. when the temperature reached 40 degrees,” Gregoria said.
Clutching a steaming cup of coffee and rushing to her job at a downtown bank, Roxanne Moss, 48, said, “It’s nice, it’s a change, but I hope it doesn’t last long.”
Raul Urbina, 43, spends much of his workday outdoors, tending to the landscaping and maintenance of some Fort Lauderdale businesses, and finds exceedingly cold temperatures bothersome.
“I work outside every day, it makes everything more difficult.”
A wind chill advisory continues for the region until 9 a.m., meaning that cold air temperatures combined with winds of 5 to 10 mph from the northwest can produce wind chills of 30 to 35 degrees throughout the metropolitan areas and even colder in parts of Palm Beach County.
Broward County officials declared a state of emergency because of the cold weather early Monday afternoon, while Palm Beach County activated its cold weather emergency shelter plan. Both actions prompted homeless shelters to open early to crowds seeking a warm place to sleep.
Agriculture businesses were also preparing for potential heavy damage to crops.
The arrival of a “modified Arctic air mass,” or cold air from the north, was expected to lower temperatures to the mid- to upper-20s in the inner parts of Palm Beach County from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, the weather service said. During the same period, Broward and Miami-Dade counties are forecast to reach the lower to mid-30s.
By late afternoon Monday, small crowds were already appearing at the front steps of shelters throughout Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Workers at the Salvation Army in Fort Lauderdale spent most of the day cooking burgers and rolling out mattresses. To keep from overcrowding, staffers planned to bus shelter-seekers to three different facilities, said Lilly Gallardo, the group’s social service director.
Staffers were hoping this week’s cold spell doesn’t stay as long as a cold stretch last January and February that left shelters filled beyond capacity.
“Last year we had people sleeping in hallways,” said Gallardo. “We’ll be prepared regardless.”
William Macer, who says he has been homeless for several months, was among those at the Salvation Army seeking shelter.
“I know there are many people who are going to suffer tonight,” he said. “A lot of them are afraid to seek services.”
In Broward County, those planning to stay at a shelter were urged to arrive no later than 6:30 p.m. Monday night. The facilities, which will be operated until 7 a.m. Tuesday, are Pompano Beach City Hall, at 100 W. Atlantic Blvd.; the Salvation Army, 1445 W. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; and Broward Outreach Center, 2056 Scott St., Hollywood.
In Palm Beach County, two shelters plan to reopen at 7 p.m. Monday night. They are the Westgate Community Center Gymnasium, at 3691 Oswego Ave., West Palm Beach; and West County Senior Citizens Center, 2916 State Road 15, Belle Glade.
Officials expect minimal use of the shelters overnight, but more people may arrive if the cold remains for several days, said Mary Blakeney of the county Division of Emergency Management.
Freezing temperatures also endanger millions of dollars of agricultural crops.
At Runway Growers in Dania Beach, owner Jamie Hayes spent Monday afternoon on his tractor spraying water and protective chemicals for his crops and plants. The grower lost about $500,000 in damaged crops in January.
“This is never good news,” he said. “We are always going to expect some damage, but hopefully nothing like last winter.”
Steve Bedner, of Bedner’s Farm Fresh Market west of Boynton Beach, is covering his small squash, cucumber and bean crops overnight, but expects his commercial pepper crop to survive the low temperatures.
“Normally, we wouldn’t have this stuff growing this time of year, but we do grow a minimal amount for the market so everybody can have fresh produce,” he said.
In Palm Beach County, helicopters were standing by to keep warm air circulating over crops if cold winds become a problem overnight, said Arthur Kirstein, of the county’s Cooperative Extension Service.
“We feel like if we can get through tonight, then tomorrow we’ll have similar conditions, but maybe with less wind,” said John Hundley, of Hundley Farms east of Belle Glade.
Schools were scheduled to remain open Tuesday, and the Broward school district on Monday sent notices to parents encouraging students to wear warm clothes, such as caps and mittens.
Temperatures in all three counties were expected to break records.
In Fort Lauderdale, the coldest temperature for a Dec. 7 was recorded 169 years ago — at 42 degrees.
For Dec. 7, the record low for Palm Beach County is 36, set in 1937; Miami’s record is 35, set in 1937. (Fort Lauderdale had a higher temp for a record because its sensor was closer to the coast, where the weather tends to stay slightly warmer.)
For Dec. 8, the record low for Palm Beach County is 43, set in 1937; Fort Lauderdale is 43, set in 1959; and Miami is 38, set in 1937.
The weather service also posted a fire alert — mainly for brush fires — from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. The increased fire risk stems from the combination of warm daytime temperatures, low humidity and strong winds.