Paradegoers will have to contend with a blast of arctic air heading into the Tampa Bay area this weekend as the Gasparilla festivities get underway.
Forecasters said Friday there is a strong possibility they will issue a wind chill warning and may consider watching for a freeze overnight Saturday. Rough seas could also create dangerous conditions for boating through Monday.
A cold front, followed by an air mass from the high latitudes, entered on Friday and will continue through the end of the week.
Saturday night and Sunday morning temperatures will be cooler.
Forecasters expect temperatures to reach the low 40s Saturday morning in Hillsborough County, although wind chills could make it feel like the high 30s.
By the afternoon, temperatures will only rise to about 58 degrees, which is well below the normal afternoon high in the 70s for this time of year, said Ross Giarratana, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Tampa Bay office.
He added that while this season’s strong El Niño pattern is not entirely responsible for this abnormally cold weather, it does play a role in the frequency of cold fronts in the winter.
Parents and children attending the Gasparilla Children’s Show, which begins Saturday morning, should avoid the worst of the icy weather, Giarratana said.
“It won’t be the coldest day of the weekend because I think Sunday morning will be even colder,” he said.
Wind chills will drop temperatures into the upper 20s in Hillsborough County Sunday morning. The weather will be colder in the northern and interior provinces. For example, Pasco and Hernando counties could see freezing temperatures or below and even colder wind chills.
Some good news: Giarratana said the cold air wouldn’t stick around long enough to derail the following weekend’s main event, the Gasparilla Pirate Festival.
“It’s going to be a lighter weekend than usual, but then we’ll be pretty much back to normal by early next week,” he said.
Spectrum Bay News 9’s 7-day forecast shows high temperatures reaching the mid 70s by Tuesday and up to 80 by Thursday.
Meanwhile, Giarratana said locals and visitors should bundle up and protect themselves from the elements during the weekend cold snap.
“Our weather is colder than usual at this time of year,” Giarratana said. “So we just encourage people to take the steps they need to stay warm when they’re outside and try to enjoy the Gasparilla festivities.”