With temperatures in the 20s and 30s, and wind chill as much as 20 degrees lower than that, North Florida was reeling in sustained shots of arctic air Wednesday morning, including as much as a quarter inch of ice and a couple inches of snow in the Panhandle.
Nowhere in our normally balmy Sunshine State is this a beach day.
Facebook was alight with warmth-seeking tourists in search of Florida.
"What did I do, bring New Jersey garbage weather with me?" asked truck driver Carl Galinski. "This can't be Florida!"
Mother of three Merrill Dumont of Charlotte, N.C. wrote, "Harold and I thought this would be a good week to visit Disney. Maybe, but we planned on sweaters not parkas."
Gov. Rick Scott stayed busy Tuesday directing storm preparations, calling on the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to spray state roads and bridges with a saline solution to lower the freezing temperature of the precipitation when it hits bridge surfaces.
He also put Florida Highway Patrol troops in Pensacola, Gainesville, Jacksonville and Tallahassee on 12-hour shifts and mobilized FHP Quick Reaction Force teams from other areas in the state.
Counties that have opened cold weather shelters include Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Leon, Columbia, Gadsden, Liberty, Wakulla, Suwannee, Clay, Duval Hillsborough, Citrus, Pasco, Brevard, Indian River, Martin, Osceola, Seminole, St. Lucie and Volusia.
Said Scott, “In Florida, you should always be prepared for potential severe weather, regardless of the time of year. As this weather system moves through our state, families and visitors across North Florida should prepare for potential hard freezes and below-freezing travel conditions.
"Floridians should closely monitor local media outlets for updates and important information. The state is working closely with local partners in North Florida to keep Floridians safe, and will continue to closely monitor weather conditions.”
Freezing temperatures nd severe winter conditions are expected to continue in Florida through Friday, with the worst of the weather on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the National Weather Service issued these specific advisories to Florida counties:
-- Winter Storm Warnings: Baker; Columbia; Gilchrist; Hamilton; Inland Nassau; Leon; Suwannee; Union; Coastal Jefferson; Coastal Taylor; Inland Jefferson; Inland Taylor; Lafayette; Madison
-- Winter Weather Advisories: Coastal Dixie; Inland Dixie; Coastal Franklin; Coastal Gulf; Coastal Nassau; Coastal Wakulla; Gadsden; Inland Franklin; Inland Gulf; Inland Wakulla; Liberty; Alachua; Bradford; Clay; Inland Duval, Coastal Levy; Inland Levy
-- Hard Freeze Watch: Escambia Coastal; Escambia Inland; Inland Levy; Okaloosa Coastal; Okaloosa Inland; Santa Rosa Coastal; Santa Rosa Inland
-- Hard Freeze Warning: Escambia Coastal; Escambia Inland; Okaloosa Coastal; Okaloosa Inland; Santa Rosa Coastal; Santa Rosa Inland; Baker; Columbia; Gilchrist; Hamilton; Inland Nassau; Suwannee; Union
-- Freeze Warning: Baker; Columbia; Gilchrist; Hamilton; Inland Nassau; Suwannee; Union
-- Freeze Watch: Coastal Citrus; Coastal Hernando; Coastal Levy; Glades; Hardee; Highlands; Inland Citrus; Inland Hernando; Inland Hillsborough; Inland Pasco; Polk; Sumter; Coastal Volusia; Indian River; Inland Volusia; Northern Brevard; Northern Lake; Okeechobee; Orange; Osceola; Seminole; Southern Brevard; Southern Lake; St. Lucie
-- Wind Chill Advisory: Escambia Coastal; Escambia Inland; Okaloosa Coastal; Okaloosa Inland; Santa Rosa Coastal; Santa Rosa Inland, Coastal Levy; Inland Levy; Coastal Charlotte; Coastal Citrus; Coastal Hernando; Coastal Hillsborough; Coastal Lee; Coastal Manatee; Coastal Pasco; Coastal Sarasota; DeSoto; Hardee; Highlands; Inland Charlotte; Inland Citrus; Inland Hernando; Inland Hillsborough; Inland Lee; Inland Manatee; Inland Pasco; Inland Sarasota; Pinellas; Polk; Sumter; Coastal Volusia County; Indian River; Inland Volusia County; Martin; Northern Brevard County; Northern Lake County; Okeechobee; Orange; Osceola; Seminole; Southern Brevard County; Southern Lake County; St. Lucie; Baker; Columbia; Gilchrist; Hamilton; Inland Nassau; Suwannee; Union; Alachua; Bradford; Clay; Inland Duval; Coastal Duval; Flagler; Marion; Putnam; St. Johns; Coastal Nassau; Coastal Palm Beach County; Glades; Hendry; Inland Broward; Inland Collier; Inland Palm Beach; Metro Palm Beach
-- Coastal Flood Watch: Coastal Volusia County; Indian River; Martin; Northern Brevard County; Southern Brevard County; St. Lucie
-- High Surf Advisories: Coastal Volusia; Indian River; Martin; Northern Brevard; Southern Brevard; St. Lucie; Coastal Palm Beach
-- Rip Current Statement: Coastal Broward County; Coastal Miami-Dade; Coastal Duval; Coastal Nassau; Flagler; St. Johns
Meanwhile, Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for gas tracker GasBuddy, blames rising pump prices in large part on the weather's frigid turn. The national average price for gasoline has advanced to $2.49 per gallon, highest in more than a month. But while in Florida the average price is still lower at $2.41, it represents a 15-cent spike -- three times higher than the national increase.
Not only Florida is in the winter storm's grip. This powerful nor'easter is expected to bring snow, ice, rain, very strong winds, and rough surf to coastal locations of the Southeast U.S., Middle Atlantic, Northeast, and into New England Wednesday into Thursday.
Authorities are advising travelers to pull into safe locations and stay off the roads. The potential exists for dangerous travel, scattered power outages, tidal flooding, and very cold wind chills.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith