The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

South Florida sees ‘hazardous’ cold and falling iguanas as temperatures dip into the 30s

The temperature in Miami fell to 39.9 degrees on Wednesday morning.

A stunned iguana lies in the grass at Cherry Creek Park in Oakland Park, Fla., on Wednesday. The low temperatures stun the invasive reptiles, but the iguanas won't necessarily die. That means many will wake up as temperatures rise Wednesday. (Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
Placeholder while article actions load

This story was last updated at 1 p.m. Wednesday: The low temperature in Miami early Wednesday bottomed out at 39.9 degrees, and the warning for falling iguanas verified, according to NOAA meteorologist Eric Blake. His wife took a picture of a stunned iguana in Virginia Key on Wednesday morning.

According to meteorologist Brian McNoldy, the low temperature in Virginia Key reached 42.1 degrees Wednesday morning, which broke the previous record low for the date by 7.5 degrees. This was also the 11th coldest temperature observed at that location, he said via Twitter.

Lows throughout central and southern Florida ranged in the 30s to near 40, with a few 32-degree readings in sparsely populated central Florida.

Iguanas in South Florida became immobilized Jan. 22 when temperatures dropped to 39 degrees. The animals, though cold blooded, stiffen when temperatures dip. (Video: The Washington Post)

Computer model analysis shows the air responsible for the cold weather in Florida had its origins as far away as frigid Minnesota. The air mass managed to sneak all the way down the Florida peninsula without passing over any comparatively warm waters, such as the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean. This trajectory helped ensure that temperatures would be especially chilly on Wednesday morning.

Original story continues below:

The coldest night in as many as two years is looming for the Sunshine State, where temperatures could tumble into the 30s and 40s along the peninsula early Wednesday. Freeze warnings are up for much of central and northern Florida, while wind chill advisories blanket South Florida.

According to the National Weather Service, cold-stunned iguanas may fall out of trees without warning. The NWS says the city of Miami will be exposed to “hazardous” cold as temperatures bottom out in the 40s.

Iguanas are falling out of trees in Florida because it’s so cold. Please don’t pick them up.

As the NWS forecast office in Miami reminded Floridians: “Iguanas are cold blooded. They slow down or become immobile when temps drop into the 40s. They may fall from trees, but they are not dead.”

Experts warn that most of these lizards, which are not native to Florida, will recover and do not recommend collecting them.

With winds of around 10 mph combined with temperatures in the 30s and 40s, wind chills could fall into the 20s and 30s Wednesday morning. That would not be noteworthy in Washington, but in Florida it is downright frigid.

The wind chill advisory plays a role in mobilizing the city’s response in aiding homeless and vulnerable populations, many of whom may not have adequate clothing or shelter appropriate for low temperatures. Instances of hypothermia are technically possible at temperatures as high as 50 degrees in strong enough winds.

The coldest temperatures will be found in northern areas of the state, where the Panhandle could drop into the 20s.

In Tampa, lows in the mid-30s are possible, while Miami is anticipated to drop into the lower 40s. Exposed inland areas in between could experience overnight lows 3 or 4 degrees above freezing — particularly if the wind goes calm.

Miami has not dipped below 45 degrees since Jan. 4, 2018; two weeks later, Tampa reached 29 degrees. The city has not fallen below freezing since.

The official forecast calls for a low of 44 in Miami, a low that is 15 degrees below average for the date. The National Weather Service in Miami is warning that the “very cold air and strong winds” around 13 mph “will result in frost bite and lead to hypothermia if precautions are not taken.”

“If you must venture outdoors, make sure you wear a hat and gloves,” the National Weather Service wrote.

Temperatures near or below freezing can significantly affect agriculture, particularly the state’s sensitive citrus crop. Record cold spells in 2010 as far south as the Everglades and Miami-Dade and Collier counties reportedly caused half-a-billion dollars worth of agricultural losses.

Temperatures will return to seasonable levels Thursday, with overnight lows in the 50s to near 60.