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Date of Issue: January 10, 2008

Cold snap hits Island

cold-01-09-ln.jpg
Beverly O'Brien of Anna Maria walks three mornings a week on the beach. Jan. 3 proved no exception, but O'Brien wore a lot more clothes than usual - jeans, a warm outer shell and a fleece jacket. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff
cold-pier.jpg
Winter comes to Island
Visitors to the Anna Maria City Pier were in short supply Jan. 3 as a blast of cold weather and accompanying high winds sent white caps crashing against the pier and temperatures plunging. With a wind-chill temperature of just 43 degrees on the Island, the day seemed more suited to those found in northern climates. Florida weather had returned to normal by the weekend. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Islanders experienced sympathy pains with northern friends and family as daytime temperatures last week plummeted to the high 30s.

A cold snap hit Florida’s Gulf coast late New Year’s Day and lingered through Jan. 3.

“I don’t want to complain,” said Nancy Pickett of Holmes Beach. “My family is up there in Michigan where it’s much worse. But heck, I’m cold.”

At the Manatee Public Beach early morning on Jan. 2, all-you-can-eat pancake enthusiasts sat in the enclosed dining room and watched frothy white-capped waves crash onto the shoreline.

“Looks like Lake Michigan,” observed Milwaukee vacationer Trent Howard, his hands wrapped around a cup of hot coffee.

The Howards - Trent, his wife and three children - were bundled up in sweatshirts. They had traveled too light - leaving ski jackets in the trunk of their car at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport.

“We didn’t want any reminders of winter while we are here, so we left them behind,” said Melanie Howard. “Really, even 55 degrees isn’t too bad.”

Vacationers Amy Maddox and Bruce Worth of Dubuque, Iowa, shrugged off the cold as well.

“Do you have any idea what we’re avoiding?”

Worth said Jan. 2 as he waited to buy stamps at the Anna Maria post office. The mercury in Anna Maria at mid-day was 57 degrees. In Dubuque, the temperature at mid-day was 12 degrees - and, with the wind chill factor, felt like 1 degree.

As the sun began to set on Jan. 2, temperatures began to fall even more in the Manatee County area - to the low 30s early Jan. 3, which, with a wind chill factor, felt like 24. The National Weather Service issued a flurry of warnings about gales, freezes, high surf, fires and wind chills.

“The very cold airmass will persist across central Florida through early Thursday,” the NWS reported from Ruskin. “Temperatures tonight (Thursday) will be significantly colder than the readings experienced Wednesday morning and winds will remain strong and gusty.”

The advisories were better for the Gulf coast than the East coast of the state, where the NWS reported on Jan. 2: “The cold temperatures combined with strong north to northeast winds are producing ocean-effect snow flurries offshore and along the east central Florida coast. Flurries have already been reported in Volusia County near Holly Hill and Ormond Beach and the potential for additional flurries exists from Brevard County southward through Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin Counties.”

The last time flurries were reported in east central Florida was Jan. 24, 2003.

For Anna Maria Island residents, the cold snap provided the opportunity to show off winter wear, reminisce about winters up north, test furnaces and fireplaces and chat with strangers about the cold.

“They might say the temperature is 50, but it feels like it’s freezing,” said Holmes Beach resident Minnie Conley, who suggested someone create a “Florida Chill Factor.”

Conley took her routine Wednesday morning walk, but it was not a typical trek. Instead of a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, she wore sweatpants and a ski parka - vintage 1979.

“I don’t care for this one bit,” she said of the snap.

The outlook for this week was better - with sunshine and temperatures in the mid-60s to low-70s and chances of a shower on Wednesday, Jan. 9.

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