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Temperature expected to remain low until Friday

For those not digging this cold, there’s yet another reason to hope Friday gets here soon: A weekend warm-up is expected, before more chilly weather returns next week.

Temperatures throughout South Florida are expected to remain well below normal over the next few days, with highs on Wednesday and Thursday never rising above the 60s.

The cold weather in usually temperate South Florida has already broken low-temperature records that date back more than 150 years, damaging crops and sending hundreds to seek overnight shelter.

Things should warm up a bit by Friday afternoon, as temperatures climb to the 70s and stay there most of the weekend, said Dan Gregoria, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami.

The weekend reprieve will be short-lived, however.

The preliminary forecast has another round of chilly air moving into the area by late Sunday afternoon and sticking around through early next week.

“It’s still far out in time, but it’s something we have to monitor,” said Gregoria. “There is the potential of it being just as cold as this week, and possibly even colder.”

Forecasters late Tuesday were warning of another freeze Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning. Lows were predicted to be in the upper 20s to lower 30s in interior parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, and in the mid-30s to around 40 in the eastern metro areas.

By 4 a.m. Wednesday, Fort Lauderdale had broken a low temperature record for the second consecutive day when the temperature was 40 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. The previous low on Dec. 8 was 43 degrees in 1959.

The 4 a.m. temperature in Boca Raton was 42 degrees and in West Palm Beach, 38.

A freeze warning issued by the weather service for most of South Florida remains in effect until 9 a.m. Wednesday.

“Tonight (Tue.) should be our last real cold night for the week,” Gregoria said Tuesday.

The expected overnight freeze was bad news for growers, particularly in Palm Beach County, where early signs of crop damage were already visible.

Palm Beach County farmers woke up Tuesday to find rows of green beans, corn and lettuce blackened by frost.

Cold-weather crop damage will drive up prices at the supermarket during the holidays, said Arthur Kirstein, agriculture coordinator for the Palm Beach County Cooperative Extension Service.

“We expected this, but we didn’t expect it to happen so early in the season,” Kirstein said.

A second night of frost will compound the problem, he said. “We just have to sit and pray. It’s what farmers do.”

Homeless shelters were preparing for another night Tuesday.

A total of 197 people spent Monday night at the three shelters opened by the Broward County Homeless Initiative Partnership and the Salvation Army of Broward County, officials said. The North Homeless Assistance Center in Pompano Beach had the greatest number, 71.

Eighty-one people stayed at the two shelters opened in Palm Beach County, officials said.

Mary Ann Diamond, of Broward Outreach in Pompano Beach, said her center is ready.

“We pretty much open the doors to everyone who needs us, regardless of the weather,” she said. “Even if we have to set up mattresses in the kitchen, we do everything to get people off the streets.”

Experts also warn that conditions ripe for wildfires. Most of the region remains under a red flag warning until 6 p.m. Wednesday. The warning means that low humidity and other factors combine to create fire growth potential.

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