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Temperatures Are Dropping, Expect A Cold Weekend

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Most of the United States, including Florida, is now subject to the coldest and most widespread blast of arctic air so far this season. Preparations are being made-- or should be.

The Jet Stream, that upper-level river of air on which storms travel, is dropping to the south and bringing Arctic air with it.

“We’ve pretty much had a cold front that’s going through the area [Thursday], and we’re looking at a freeze across the whole area, even down to the coast,” said Don Shepherd, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Mobile.

A freeze watch for the coastal Panhandle takes effect late Friday night through Saturday morning. Expect lows generally 10-20 degrees below normal from the Northwest to the Gulf and East coasts. Nighttime temperatures could drop into the low- to mid-30s in the Florida Panhandle and south Alabama, with upper 20s in some locations.

Residents are being urged to take the necessary measures to protect themselves such as bundling up, and making sure their pets have adequate shelter. Josh Newby at northwest Florida’s Council on Aging says they continue to gather items to help seniors keep warm this winter.

“We’ve gotten many heaters from various organizations, and literally hundreds of wool blankets,” said Newby. “These have been donated by individuals, by community organizations, by people who understand the needs of senior citizens, especially when the weather drops.”

Many of Gulf Power Company’s 436,000 customers likely will see the impact of the cold weather in their upcoming bills. Jeff Rogers at the utility says a little planning can go a long way towards softening the blow.

“We recommend in the winter you keep your thermostat set at 68 degrees, or if you can set it lower,” Rogers said. “For every degree lower than 68 you can save 10% on the heating portion of your bill.”

Also, put on an extra sweater and throw an extra blanket on the bed, to keep away the temptation of adjusting the thermostat. There are a number of programs to help with paying a larger bill listed at www.gulfpower.com.

However, this cold snap is expected to be short-lived. Don Shepherd at the National Weather Service says expect a warm-up next week.

“That high drifts off the East Coast, and another frontal boundary begins to develop over the Plains states,” said Shepherd. “We’ll get kind of sandwiched between those two systems, and get a warmer, more moist southerly flow off the Gulf. Daytime highs will be in the 60s.”

For more information on how to stay safe during the cold weather, visit www.ready.gov/winter.