We are having a cold snap. It was down to 50°F two nights ago and 47F last night. The high yesterday was only 62°. That, the weather gal tells us gleefully, is ". . .the lowest high we’ve ever experienced on this date in Central Florida.”
We won’t see freezing temperatures until January or February. Then we will have two or three nights when tender tropical plants must be covered, the thermometer plunging to perhaps as low as 30°. I’ll bring the orchids into the garage in mid-December, once their south-facing screened porch has afternoons with the midday high consistently in the low 50’s.
When people here are confronted with a cold snap, clothing reveals their origins. Native Floridians continue much as usual; they have already switched to long pants in late September. Only the beach boys and tourists appear with shorts and flip-flops. The snowbirds haven’t arrived yet; they will be sporting their Florida wardrobes, whites and pastels, at Thanksgiving and on through the beginning of the year.
The balance of the population, and among adults this means the majority of the residents, will show up in full winter gear. It is even fairly simple to tell in what region “Up North” most of them have lived before moving to Florida.
People from the northern-most and heavily rural states --- Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Vermont, Maine – favor plaid wool jackets, hats with ear flaps, and canvas trousers. Women who were city dwellers on the Atlantic Coast – Boston, New York - can be seen in leg warmers and long fleece neck scarves. Men from the same background lean toward watch caps and ‘Michelin Man’ hip-length foam jackets. Gloves are popular, as well as turtle-neck sweaters, among all these ‘new Floridians’. I saw a sweet old couple in the mall yesterday afternoon; she was wearing a belted hand-knit coat sweater and he was outstanding in a white sweater with a pattern of green and red snowflakes across his chest.
It is hard to understand why people overdress in this manner. Most of them have been here long enough to know that they are not going to be caught in a sudden snowstorm at mid-day. Perhaps it is just a touch of nostalgia, a harkening back to a time and a place where a drop in temperature meant the onset of a violent change in seasons.