Did it happen? Did it snow in South Florida on Saturday afternoon?

The National Weather Service in Miami on Saturday night was investigating nearly a dozen reports from West Palm Beach on down to Kendall from weather observers who said they saw snow flurries mixed in with the rain that fell in the afternoon, said meteorologist Joel Rothfuss. Some of those reports were in Broward.

"We can't deny it didn't happen. We just haven't been able to confirm it," Rothfuss said.

He added that the area most likely saw the rain mixed with bits of frozen rain, called sleet, but that the ice pellets were so tiny they apparently melted upon touching the ground. Even if it wasn't snow, the icy rain is still a rarity for South Florida.

The last time South Florida saw snow flurries was Jan. 19, 1977.

There were, however, definitely snowflakes falling over Central Florida on Saturday, amid one of the longest cold stretches in the state's history.

Temperatures across Florida dipped into the 30s and in some cases the 20s Friday night and Saturday morning. The Orlando Sentinel jokingly referred to the area as "Snowlando" and looked for citizen weather reporters for its "Orlando Snow Patrol." Snow fell from Saturday morning into the afternoon in some cities. One anonymous "Snow Patrol" reporter from Oviedo gave a distinctly Florida account of what they saw: "Snow piled up on my pool screen."

Flurries were reported as far south as Naples on the Gulf Coast, according to the Associated Press.

More cold weather is in store for Sunday.

"We're gonna have another cold day," said Dan Gregoria, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami. "This has been just a prolonged cold stretch."

Temperatures will be in the low 50s during the day Sunday and then fall again into the mid 30s, particularly in inland areas of South Florida.

The cold caught people in Central Florida offguard.

Mark and Barbara Willard were at home in Wickford, England two weeks ago checking the weather forecast on the Internet before packing for their trip to Orlando — sunny and 70 degrees.

On Saturday afternoon, they had the hoods on their brand new coats pulled tight around their heads as the walked down the International Drive tourist strip. The weather: 35 degrees and cloudy with a chance of more icy rain or even snow.

The Florida Highway Patrol reminds South Florida residents – not particularly known for their cautious driving style – to drive cautiously, just in case of ice.

"I don't think we'll have any concerns unless it keeps getting much colder," said Sgt. Mark Wysocky, spokesman for the Broward County troop. "With ice, obviously you don't want to hit your break hard. You definitely want to reduce speed and use caution."

The threat of more freezing temperatures had farms in Palm Beach County scrambling Saturday evening to cover vulnerable plants. Steve Bedner, with Bedner's Fresh Farm Market west of Boynton Beach, covered cucumbers, squash and beans to protect them from possible frost. Such a decision isn't made lightly though.

"If we pull out the covers, the covers can do as much damage as the cold, it rubs on the plants, beats the plants down," he said.

Bedner said he hasn't seen a cold spell like this since 1989 and expects it to affect future crops.

"The yields will be lower later on because of the loss of pollination," he said. "It's another sleepless night. We'll be watching the thermometers."

Homeless shelters in Broward and Palm Beach counties opened up Saturday again. Shelters in both counties have been busy over the past week.

Sean Cononie, executive director of the Homeless Voice, said Saturday night that his group planned to patrol Broward County with 10 vehicles to offer rides to shelters. They would leave blankets for the homeless who didn't want to go, he said.

South Florida has seen the longest stretch of near-record cold temperatures since 1989. The weather has been part of a nationwide freeze that buried some areas in the north in feet of snow.

But this stretch may be coming to an end. Gregoria said the workweek should be warmer, with temperatures in the mid-70s by Thursday or Friday.

No comments: