Southern US cold snap could have iguanas falling from trees in Florida
Travel will likely halt due to a massive winter storm that will bring high winds, snow and dangerously low temperatures to the central U.S.
As a potent storm unleashes high winds, severe cold and local blizzard conditions and threatens to shut down travel across the Upper Midwest through Friday, it will usher in a deep freeze and wintry conditions across the southern United States. The cold will sweep all the way into Florida, triggering an alert for an unusual phenomenon: cold so intense that iguanas drop from trees.
The storm sent a powerful cold front across the southern Plains on Thursday and caused temperatures to plummet. After a high in the mid-40s F on Wednesday, temperatures hovered just above zero at Oklahoma City during the middle of the day on Thursday.
The temperature drop allowed for snowflakes to fly across far northern Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Cities such as Wichita, Kansas and Tulsa, Oklahoma, had a slick coating of snow and blowing snow early on Thursday morning.
In Nashville, an inch of snow fell Thursday night and followed temperatures in the 50s for a time during the day. The intense temperature drop caused wet and slushy areas to freeze rapidly. Shortly after daybreak on Friday, thermometers in the Music City area hovered just below zero.
Around Atlanta, snow failed to make an appearance, but some areas that were made wet from Thursday evening's downpours froze solid Friday morning.
Wind gusts up to 45 mph will extend across the Southeast throughout Friday.
Air travel disruptions in the direct path of the storm's snow and high winds farther north would not be confined to just the snowy or windy locations but could have a cascading ripple effect across the country into the weekend.
The strong winds will also contribute to how cold it will feel after the storm departs.
Dry weather is forecast across the southeastern U.S. for the start of the Christmas weekend on Saturday, but the wintry chill will linger. RealFeel temperatures will be below zero as far south as the Alabama Gulf coast.
Bitterly cold air will continue to race along with the frontal passage with freezing temperatures forecast as far to the south much of the Florida Peninsula for the Christmas weekend.
Floridians should be on the lookout for falling iguanas
At midday on Friday in Orlando, temperatures were hovering within a few degrees of 70. However, in the wake of the Arctic cold front, temperatures will fall into the 50s before the end of the day and then to near the 30-degree mark by Saturday morning. High temperatures will be no better than the 40s with AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures in the lower 30s at times for those spending time outdoors, such as at area theme parks.
Air temperatures falling below freezing across the Florida Peninsula will likely be too cold for certain types of wildlife in the area.
Every few years, a unique weather predicament strikes the tropical climate of Florida, particularly when arctic air reaches the Sunshine State. The frigid cold is known to adversely affect iguanas, which are not native to the state and are considered to be an invasive species. When temperatures drop into the low 40s or below, the cold-blooded reptiles slow down drastically and eventually become immobile before they fall out of their home in the trees.
An iguana fell out of a tree to the pavement in Florida on Jan. 30, 2022. (Drew Morris)
Back in January of this year, there were multiple reports of cold-stunned iguanas as temperatures dropped to the freezing mark as far south as the Big Cypress National Preserve in South Florida.
Sunday will be the coldest Christmas Day in years across most of Florida. St. Petersburg can expect a high around 47 degrees which, if reached, it would tie the record for the lowest December high temperature on record. This record temperature was reached in 2000.
Through the rest of the holiday weekend and into the final week of December, temperatures are expected to stay well below normal from Texas to the Carolinas. It might take until the middle of next week for temperatures to be within a few degrees of average for late December.
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