Cold spell over, highs in the 80s again for the next week in Southwest Florida

Chad Gillis
Fort Myers News-Press

Southwest Florida's wonky winter weather will continue this week as a cold front that dropped lows into the 30s gives way to high pressure and warmer conditions.

The National Weather Service is calling for a high of 80 degrees Thursday, with a low in the mid-60s. That's a few degrees above average conditions for the Fort Myers-Naples area and more in line with what we experience here during a typical December.

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"We are expecting it to warm up through the next several days," said Jennifer Hubbard, an NWS meteorologist in Ruskin, which covers the Lee County area. "We have an upper disturbance and then a high pressure system will move into place in the eastern United States and that will allow us to get to normal and above."

Highs are expected to be in the 80s through at least Monday, according to NWS forecasts.

The days leading up to and just after Christmas are what some Southwest Floridians might describe as bitterly cold, with wind chills in the upper 20s and lower 30s.

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Hubbard said there will be another front that makes its way through the eastern part of the country, but that our region will only have an increased chance of rain.

"We are expecting another front to move over the weekend, so there may be showers and storm but we may not get a cold push like we did over the past week," Hubbard said. "There's going to be some (cold weather) to the north of us but it won't make it to us. We just have a chance of rain."

A truly brisk cold front dropped temperatures in the Fort Myers-Naples area to 28 degrees in 1989.

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Last week, it looked as though the Christmas holiday cold front could bring crop-damaging temperatures to this subtropical region.

The crew at the Naples Botanical Garden brought some of their most delicate species inside to protect them from a wind chill in the upper 30s.

"Luckily it wasn’t that bad," said Nick Ewy, with the garden. "The cloud coverage kept the temperatures up, but there were three days and that impacted some things. It was minor damage."

Ewy said the temperatures associated with the cold front were not low enough to impact most of their trees and plants.

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"It will recovery quickly," Ewy said. "It’s not catastrophic, it’s more cosmetic. We did bring some ultra-tropical things inside for those three days. Small seedlings and small tropical stuff."

NWS in Miami is calling for similar conditions in Collier County. Although Lee and Collier are adjacent to each other are often considered part Southwest Florida, the Miami NWS handles forecasts for the Naples-Collier area.

"It looks like the rainy weather is moving out and the drier weather is moving in," said Chuck Caracozza, with Miami NWS. "Temperatures are going to moderate to around 80 Thursday and Friday it will be in the lower 80s through the weekend and then it warms up into early next week as well."

Caracozza said it's too early to tell if a cold front late into next week will produce much in the way of cold weather.

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"Cold front" is a meteorological term that refers to a low pressure system that works it's way from Canada to the eastern United States. So even though a front may not cause temperatures to drop, it's still referred to as a cold front by meteorologists and weather experts.

"It's still pretty early to tell because a cold front could stall next week but that's pretty far out," Caracozza said. "It looks like it comes down and stalls out before it reaches Naples."

Did you know?

The average high for Christmas Day in Naples is 76, with an average low of 58 degrees. The record low for Christmas in Naples is 28 degrees (1989).

The Dec. 25 record high in Fort Myers is 88 degrees (2016) and record low is 28 degrees (1989). The average high for the 25th is 77 degrees and the average low is 59 degrees.

Connect with this reporter: Chad Gillis on Facebook.