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South Florida prepares for the big chill

Time to protect your plants and pets from the coming cold. (MGN Online)

Visitors from the north are familiar with the phrase "plants, pets and pipes", but long-time Florida residents might be unsure what to do ahead of the near-freezing air about to sweep the area.

The coldest air since 2010 is on its way to South Florida, and there are steps people need to take to protect pets and property.

Tender tropical plants (don't worry about trees, they are hardy enough to survive the cold snap) should be brought indoors or covered with a tarp or bed sheet.

Household pets should be kept inside, as long exposure to 30 and 40 degree temps pose a danger to their health. Most dog houses in South Florida are designed for protection from sun and heat and do a poor job in cold weather.

People living along the Treasure Coast, where temperatures are expected to drop below freezing for several hours, may want to wrap water pipes exposed to outside air. This includes wrapping the outside faucets, or turning on the faucet to a steady drip so water constantly moves through the pipe. This precaution is needed only if you live in an area where air temperatures below 32 degrees are expected for several hours. This means actual air temperature, not wind chill estimates, which can be much lower.

It's also important to check on elderly friends and family today, making sure they have a working heating system where they live. Make sure they have needed supplies for a few days spent indoors, and make sure blankets and quilts are brought out of the closet and easily accessible.

Consider offering shelter to elderly friends who might rely on small space heaters or turning on an oven for heat. Using these methods to stay warm create a dangerous situation and should be avoided.

Palm Beach County is expected to decide Wednesday afternoon whether to open their shelters.

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