TAMARA LUSH, Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Keep the jackets, mittens and blankets handy.

Temperatures across Florida will plummet into freezing in parts of Central and North Florida Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service said all of Florida will be freezing or near freezing Tuesday evening. Pensacola, Tallahassee and Jacksonville will be in the teens. The Tampa Bay area and central Florida will be in the 20s. Even places like Miami will struggle to hit 40 degrees.

“It’s a very significant cold snap,” said Logan Johnson, a forecaster at the National Weather Service.

Johnson said a strong cold front from Canada is causing the weather. The freezing temperatures inland will probably last for five or six hours, he said, which could significantly impact fruit and vegetable crops.

“It’s been very warm these past few weeks and the plants aren’t acclimated to the cold,” said Johnson, adding that it was 80 degrees on Christmas in much of central Florida.

Farmers in the central and southern parts of the state will be on alert Tuesday, hoping to not lose their crops to the cold. In 2010, crops were heavily damaged by freezing temperatures.

Strawberry farmers in places like Plant City will be up all night to turn on sprinklers to spray water on the tender fruit. The water will freeze and provide insulation.

Meanwhile, emergency officials are opening cold weather shelters for the homeless and other needy people who don’t have heat in their homes.

Johnson said it will gradually warm up Wednesday and into the weekend.

“After tomorrow night, we’re going to be turning the corner,” he said.


Follow Tamara Lush on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tamaralush

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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