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Another Winter Blast This Weekend


Northwest Florida and south Alabama are bracing for another round of frigid temperatures. Residents are urged to take steps to protect themselves, including caution when heating their homes.

Two more winter storms are again targeting the Northeast with snow later this week – think of them as Valentine’s Day storms to chill the heart.

“You have a big area of cold, high pressure behind each one of them,” said Don Shepherd, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Mobile. “And it just reinforces the dry, northerly cold flow that we have over the area.”

The second of the two cold fronts, poised to move into the U.S. beginning Saturday, will likely be more powerful than the first. Temperatures are expected to run 30 degrees below normal far into the Southeast. And Shepherd says this time not even Florida can get out of the way.

“We stay cold for the remainder of [this] week,” Shepherd said. “We’ll have the stronger one come through next Tuesday. The cold air lags a little behind. We’re looking next Wednesday night at low to mid 20s, and from the wind down into the teens.”

When cold weather moves in, concerns rise about the dangers posed by the improper use of heating devices. One prime example is mishandling space heaters, such as placing them near flammable objects. 

Another potential hazard is carbon monoxide, which can emit from fireplaces and wood-burning stoves that are improperly vented. CO is undetectable by humans – it has no color, odor or taste. Symptoms of CO poisoning can include headache, vomiting, nausea, and fatigue. The longer the exposure, the more severe the symptoms.

That point hit home tragically in December, when two adults and a child died of carbon monoxide poisoning at their home in Pensacola. Officials blame a propane-fired space heater, and no CO detectors in the house.

“Carbon monoxide displaces oxygen off of our red blood cells, sometimes up to 300 times more,” said Dr. Tim Rak, Director of Emergency Medicine at Sacred Heart Hospital. 

“Red blood cells’ job is to carry oxygen throughout the body,” said Rak. “Carbon monoxide gets into your system and sits on that red blood cell, so you don’t get any oxygen into your tissues.”

If the forecast models are correct, this winter pattern will continue through at least next week, and possibly beyond. The good news – for now – is that a hard freeze is not in the forecast for northwest Florida and south Alabama. 

Meantime, cold weather shelters will be open the next few nights in the area, including Waterfront Rescue Mission in Pensacola; Ferris Hill Baptist Church in Milton, and rotating churches in the Crestview-Fort Walton Beach area.