The Sunshine State is not immune to winter weather and cold temperatures. In fact, there are freeze warnings and watches in many counties across Florida this week. For the last several years, winter weather has led to record freezes killing crops and plants. Freezes can cause environmental issues, such as fish kills, cold-stunning of turtles, as well as pipes bursting which can lead to solid waste and chemicals polluting the ground and water.
The cold temperatures combined with strong winds can be dangerous to those not prepared. In some instances, cold snaps in Florida can be more dangerous because many people are unaccustomed to dealing with freezing temperatures, so the likelihood of people using (and misusing) heaters, especially fuel-operated ones, is higher.
Here are some tips to ensure that you are prepared for freezing temperatures:
- Protect Pipes: Cover pipes and allow outdoor faucets to slowly drip to prevent from freezing and breaking.
- Practice Fire Safety: Use safe heating sources indoors. Do not use fuel-burning devices such as grills; they release carbon monoxide, which is a deadly gas. Also, make sure to use space heaters according to their instructions and be attentive to open flames. Don’t forget, space is important! Create a “safe zone” around the device by keeping children, pets and anything that can burn at least three feet away.
- Protect People: Remember to dress in layers and wear a hat and gloves. It is important to try to stay out of the wind and to stay dry. Also, remember to check on young children and the elderly who are the most sensitive to cold weather.
- Protect Pets: If cold weather is in the forecast, be sure to bring outdoor pets inside or give them a warm shelter to stay in.
- Protect Plants: Cover cold sensitive plants to protect them from the dangerous temperatures.
Can’t remember which is worse a watch or a warning? Here are the definitions:
- Freeze WATCH: sub-freezing temperatures are possible for a minimum of two hours.
- Freeze WARNING: sub-freezing temperatures are expected for a minimum of two hours.
- Hard Freeze WATCH: temperatures less than 27 degrees Fahrenheit are possible for a minimum of two hours.
- Hard Freeze WARNING: temperatures less than 27 degrees Fahrenheit are expected for a minimum of two hours.
- Wind Chill Advisory: very cold air and strong winds will combine to generate low wind chills which could result in frost bite and hypothermia if precautions are not taken.
Be sure to pay attention to your local news for winter weather warnings!