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Extreme Temperatures

Florida can experience a wide range of temperatures, from dangerously hot to dangerously cold, and this is why it is important for everyone to know how to stay safe during these periods of temperature extremes.

“It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity”

Florida is typically the most humid area in the United States, which can make it feel just as hot, or hotter, than the deserts to our west. Usually, it is not the high temperatures that make summer conditions dangerous; rather, it is the amount of humidity, or moisture, in the air. Since Florida is surrounded by water on three sides, no point in the state is more than 60 miles from the ocean and or more than 345 feet above sea level. This means there is an abundance of tropical moisture and humidity over the state. When this high humidity combines with the hot temperatures of the summer months, it feels like it is much hotter outside than it really is. This is called the heat index. High heat index values limit our body’s ability to cool off through sweating. When the heat index reaches 105°F or higher, conditions can become dangerous for people and animals. Elderly persons, small children, and small animals are particularly vulnerable to heat stress. When the combination of heat and humidity reaches levels that can cause heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heatstroke, the National Weather Service will issue Heat Advisories or Excessive Heat Warnings.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”

Although many people head south in the winter to escape the cold temperatures, it isn’t always warmer in Florida. Sometimes our visitors are greeted by more chilly conditions than they would have experienced farther north. These severe cold outbreaks occur in Florida at least once a year. They are caused by strong cold fronts that move through the state, as well as northerly winds behind the fronts. These winds bring cold air and blustery winds southward into Florida from places as far away as Canada or the northern Plains. When strong winds combine with cold temperatures, the heat loss from a person’s skin can be accelerated. This is called the wind chill. The wind chill can make it feel like it is much colder outside than what the actual temperature is. The National Weather Service will issue Frost Advisories, Wind Chill Advisories, Watches or Warnings, along with Freeze and Hard Freeze Watches and Warnings when cold weather threatens an area. In addition, cold temperatures that drop below freezing can kill crops, plants and even fish. For the past two winters in Florida, cold weather outbreaks have cost hundreds of millions of dollars in crop damage or loss.

heat index chart


Play It Safe

When hot weather and high heat index values are in the forecast, just remember to DRINK WATER:

Dress appropriately
Remain inside if possible
Intake plenty of water
Never leave anyone in a car with no air conditioning
Keep outdoor activities to cooler parts of day

Wear a hat and sunglasses
Always keep an eye on children and elderly
Take frequent breaks
Eliminate strenuous outdoor activities
Remember to check on pets

More information about heat hazards and what you can do to protect yourself and others can be found at http://www.weather.gov/os/heat/index.shtml or http://www.floridadisaster.org.

frozen oranges
Ice on an Orange Tree in Plant City, Florida
in January 2010.

When cold weather is in the forecast, it is important to remember the “5 P’s of Cold Weather Safety.” The 5 P’s are:

Protect People: Remember to dress in layers and wear a hat and gloves. It is important to try to stay out of the wind and to stay dry. Also, remember to check on young children and the elderly who are the most sensitive to cold weather.
Protect Pets: If cold weather is in the forecast, be sure to bring outdoor pets inside or give them a warm shelter to stay in.
Protect Plants: Cover cold-sensitive plants to protect them from the dangerous temperatures.
Protect Pipes: Cover pipes and allow outdoor faucets to slowly drip to prevent from freezing and breaking.
Practice Fire Safety: Use safe-heating sources indoors. Do not use fuel-burning devices such as grills; they release carbon monoxide, which is a deadly gas. Also, make sure to use space heaters according to their instructions and be attentive to open flames.



temperature chart 

Did You Know?

Welcome to Florida signage

  • The hottest temperature ever recorded in Florida was 109˚F on June 29, 1931, in Monticello, Florida.
  • Heat waves in Florida typically occur during periods of drought, low humidity and mostly clear skies. In June 1985, a severe heat wave hit the state with temperatures of 106˚F in Ocala and 105˚F in Lakeland. Another prominent heat wave struck in 2011 when Tallahassee hit an all-time record high temperature of 105 degrees on June 15.
  • The highest heat index temperature reported in Florida in 2010 was 124˚F in Apalachicola on July 31.
  • The coldest temperature recorded in Florida was –2˚F in Tallahassee on February 13, 1899. At the same time, snow up to three inches deep was reported by several cities in the Panhandle.
  • On January 19, 1977, snow fell on Miami, Florida and was seen in Homestead, Florida (which is 22 miles south of Miami). Unfortunately, it melted when it hit the ground.
  • The deepest snowfall ever measured in Florida (four inches), occurred in Milton on March 6, 1954.


  • Never leave a child or pet in an unattended vehicle, even for a few minutes.
  • Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids and eat low-calorie foods.
  • Stay out of the sun, and in an air-conditioned place, especially during the heat of the day.
  • Slow down.
  • Restrict strenuous activities to the cooler time of day.
  • Dress in loose, lightweight, light-colored clothes.
  • Use sunscreen to avoid sunburn.
  • Consider wearing a hat.
  • During prolonged heat episodes, check on elderly family, friends and neighbors.
  • Stay indoors and use safe heating sources.
  • Be aware of the fire danger from space heaters and candles.
  • Keep such devices away from all flammable materials such as curtains and furniture, and install smoke detectors.
  • Indoors, do not use charcoal or other fuel-burning devices, such as grills that produce carbon monoxide.
  • Install at least one carbon monoxide detector.
  • Outdoors, stay dry and in wind protected areas.
  • Wear multiple layers of loose-fitting clothes.
  • Drink plenty of non-alcoholic liquids and eat high-calorie foods.


January 24, 2012 16:59