Freezing cold invades Central Florida

Freeze watch issued for Thursday morning in Marion County

By Troy Bridges - Meteorologist

ORLANDO, Fla. - A cold front brought freezing temperatures to parts of Central Florida early Wednesday, forcing schools to work overtime and closing attractions.

[VIDEO:  Schools prepare | Residents react | Tourists surprised by cold snap]

"We're tracking the coldest air of the season so far as a strong cold front moved through Tuesday," Local 6 meteorologist Troy Bridges said.

Colder, drier air moved in behind the front, sending temperatures to below freezing in Marion County, where the "feels like" temperature was in the 20s.  Wind gusts were near 20 miles per hour.

Orlando saw a low Wednesday morning of 41 degrees.  The record low for Orlando is 36 degrees, set in 1951.

Daytona Beach hit 37 degrees, three shy of the record low set in 1951. 

And Melbourne was at 44 degrees.  The record low for Melbourne on Wednesday is 40 degrees, set in 1981.

The cold weather prompted Disney's Blizzard Beach, SeaWorld's Aquatica and Wet 'n Wild Orlando to close for the day.  It's not yet known if the parks will reopen on Thursday.

Schools in Marion County were working to ensure student safety.  Mechanics were called in early Wednesday to make sure buses were running and heaters on buses and at all 50 schools were working properly.

"We certainly don't want the drivers getting on buses that don't start or don't have heaters that aren't working," said Kevin Christian, spokesman for Marion County Schools.  "More importantly, though, we don't want kids getting on those buses. So we'll check things out today and if the weather looks like it's going to be as cold tomorrow morning or nearly as cold, I'm sure we'll do the same thing."

The cold snap, however, will be gone in a couple of days.

"As more dry air moves in, more sunshine will break out, allowing temperatures to warm into the low and mid-60s across the region on Wednesday afternoon, Bridges said. 

Lows Wednesday night won't be as cold, but temps will dip into the 40s in many areas early Thursday.

A freeze watch remains in effect for Marion County, as temperatures will drop to the freezing mark early Thursday morning.

Central Floridians had varying opinions about the cold snap.

"I'm wearing two sweaters and a turtleneck underneath little thing," said Brandon Hopkins.  "It's crazy. It's hot one morning, then I go to sleep and go to work tonight and it's freezing cold."

"I got my beard, my trusty wool hat and my Rays jacket. It keeps me warm," Robert Gonzalez said.  "It's crazy. It's, like, going to snow. It's not supposed to be this cold here.  Florida is throwing left hooks at me, I never know what's coming."

"I left New York to get away from this weather, it's ridiculous. Florida, you surprised us with this one," Kawon Suggs said.

Highs will be in the low 80s in Orlando by the end of the weekend.

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