An arctic cold front is moving into the Jacksonville area, bringing freezing temperatures and high winds, and the city is advising residents to take precautions to protect themselves and their property.
The National Weather Service has issued a hard freeze warning for surrounding areas until Tuesday morning, with temperatures in the low to mid-20s expected. In addition, a wind chill warning has been posted through mid-morning hours on Tuesday, with brisk northwest winds expected near 15 mph, and occasional higher gusts.
High winds will drive wind chill readings during predawn hours to near zero degrees in inland areas, and coastal areas are expected to see wind chill readings in the teens.
"The primary agency we've been speaking with and will continue to monitor is the National Weather Service in order to provide accurate information to all of our partners in the area," said Steve Woodard, of the city's Emergency Preparedness Division. "All the city agencies were on a call today, along with some military agencies, to make sure they had that same information."
Lake wind advisories have also been posted throughout the region through at least the early evening hours Monday night.
Low wind chills bring the potential for frostbite to exposed skin and can lead to hypothermia with prolonged exposure. Wear gloves, hats and layered clothing to stay warm and keep exposed skin to a minimum.
Extended periods of hard freeze conditions may cause exposed water pipes to burst. To prevent freezing, allow a trickle of warm water to run from a faucet that is farthest from your water meter, or one that has frozen in the past. At this time, icing conditions are not expected for the Jacksonville area.
Young children, the elderly and homeless are especially vulnerable to the cold. Vulnerable populations are advised to take necessary precautions. The Jacksonville Day and Resource Center will be open on Tuesday to assist vulnerable populations downtown. Many shelters throughout the area are opening up additional space in response to the cold weather, including the Trinity Rescue Mission, the Sulzbacher Center and the Salvation Army.
Besides taking precautions with people who may be especially vulnerable to these conditions, outdoor pets without proper shelter should be brought inside for the night and morning hours. Conditions can also be harmful to sensitive vegetation.
When buying or installing a space heater, be sure to purchase newer models with up-to-date safety features that are the proper size for the room you wish to heat. Oversized heaters bring greater potential for fire. Heaters should be located on a level surface away from flammable materials, foot traffic, children and pets. Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are completely out before leaving the room or going to bed.
More tips are available on the Emergency Preparedness Division website, www.JaxReady.com.
Contact Information for Area Shelters:
900 W. Adams St.
City Rescue Mission
234 W. State St.
611 E. Adams St.
Trinity Rescue Mission
627 W. Beaver St.
American Red Cross
Journey Church of Jacksonville at 5941 Richard St. will open its doors to anyone who needs to get out of the cold Monday and Tuesday nights from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. It will also have food.
In Fleming Island, Orange Cove Seventh Day Advent Church at 4501 U.S. Highway 17 South will open for those who need shelter.
In Nassau County, Fernandina Beach Church of Christ at 1005 S. 14th Ave. Is opening from 7 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. Monday and Tuesday nights.
Coast Guard asks boaters to secure vessels
The Coast Guard is advising mariners to prepare their vessels for incoming high winds Monday in advance of the arctic blast currently crossing the country. The National Weather Service is predicting northwesterly winds estimated at 15-25 mph with gusts between 30-35 mph.
Gale warnings are predicted for the offshore areas from Flagler Beach, Fla., to Altamaha Sound, Ga., with seas rising between 8 and 11 feet Monday night and into Tuesday.
In anticipation of the weather, the Coast Guard advises mariners to ensure their vessels are properly tied down along their piers and moorings. Secondary mooring lines may be necessary. Mariners are also advised to ensure any loose items, such as life jackets, be put below decks or indoors. In the past, objects in the water have been misidentified as people in the water, resulting in unnecessary search and rescue operations by the Coast Guard.
Vessels that break free and drift unattended also pose a potential risk of pollution.
Swimmers are advised to avoid activities in the water due to the dropping temperatures and rising seas.