Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Really Cold, but Few Problems; No Icy Roads Reported, Shelters Able to Provide Enough Beds

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Really Cold, but Few Problems; No Icy Roads Reported, Shelters Able to Provide Enough Beds

Article excerpt

Byline: Meredith Rutland

Despite the cold temperatures Tuesday, Jacksonville was spared the chaos that typically comes with freezing nights and frigid days.

Roads didn't freeze over with ice or snow. Shelters had enough beds and blankets. Manatees were keeping warm, according to officials.

But employees across the region - from emergency room staff to zookeepers - are keeping an eye on the weather while the region is on the cusp of dangerously cold temperatures.

Temperatures were in the 20s across Northeast Florida on Tuesday morning, dipping into the teens in Nassau County, said Kate Guillet, National Weather Service meteorologist. Coastal areas of Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties were expected to be in the low 30s Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Inland areas were expected to be in the 20s.

The weather should be back in the 70s by Friday, Guillet said.

Keeping people and animals healthy and warm has been the primary priority of service workers across Northeast Florida.

The Mayo Clinic, Baptist Health and UF Health Jacksonville are expecting more patients with respiratory illnesses to come in as temperatures start to warm, spokespeople for those hospitals said, and no cases of hypothermia or frostbite were reported at those hospitals on Tuesday.

Darin Roark, administrator of the Baptist Clay Medical Campus for Baptist Health, recommended getting a flu shot now and washing one's hands often to ward off the inevitable uptick in cases of the cold and flu.

He said the hospital also expects more patients this week because some people will have been putting off getting aches checked out until it was warmer.

Various homeless shelters prepared for the cold by setting up dozens of extra beds and distributing donated blankets and sleeping bags.

The Sulzbacher Center was expecting to house about 50 people but would make room for anyone who showed up, said Allison Vega, center spokeswoman. The City Rescue Mission was expecting to shelter about 200 people Tuesday night, said Penny Kievet, City Rescue Mission interim executive director.

"We won't ever turn anyone away. We'll put pallets down on the floor. We'll do whatever we need to do," Kievet said.

The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens kept some cold-susceptible animals inside, such as its Komodo dragon, said spokeswoman Amy Hernden.

Other animals could go inside whenever they wanted, and they were given warming pads and blankets if they decided to stay out in their exhibits.

Wildlife experts were keeping an eye on the marine life while temperatures dropped, but as of Tuesday the region's manatees seemed to be healthy, said Karen Parker, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman.

Manatees are susceptible to cold stress and need to stay in water that's 72 degrees or higher, she said. …

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