Florida farmers were preparing Thursday for continuing cold weather, with temperatures expected to drop into the 30s overnight as far south as Fort Myers and Homestead.
Many of Florida’s crops cannot handle freezing temperatures for long periods. Citrus and strawberry farmers are preparing harvests ahead of time, often running irrigation systems to create small layers of ice over the fruit to protect it from a hard freeze.
State Department of Agriculture spokesman Aaron Keller said it has already been a tough year for the agriculture industry after Hurricane Irma caused widespread damage in September. He said a hard freeze would make the situation worse. “Right now, the forecasts have the freeze line just above most of our winter production, so we are in good shape. But, if that goes south just a little bit it could be very damaging.” Keller said. As of mid-day Thursday, freezing temperatures had only affected North Florida, where crops are typically more cold-tolerant.
A freeze warning was in effect for Thursday night in the Orlando area and inland areas of South and Southwest Florida.
Below is from the National Weather Service:
URGENT - WEATHER MESSAGE National Weather Service Tampa Bay Area - Ruskin FL 903 AM EST Thu Jan 4 2018 ...FREEZING TEMPERATURES EXPECTED ACROSS MUCH OF THE NATURE COAST AND THE INTERIOR FLORIDA PENINSULA FRIDAY MORNING... FLZ052-056-057-148-249-251-051400- /O.EXP.KTBW.FZ.W.0002.000000T0000Z-180104T1400Z/ /O.CON.KTBW.FZ.W.0003.180105T0800Z-180105T1400Z/ Polk-Hardee-Highlands-Coastal Hernando-Inland Pasco- Inland Hillsborough- Including the cities of Lakeland, Winter Haven, Wauchula, Bowling Green, Zolfo Springs, Sebring, Avon Park, Placid Lakes, Hernando Beach, Bayport, Dade City, Zephyrhills, Brandon, Plant City, and Sun City Center 903 AM EST Thu Jan 4 2018 ...FREEZE WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 3 AM TO 9 AM EST FRIDAY... ...FREEZE WARNING FOR THIS MORNING HAS EXPIRED... * TEMPERATURE...28 to 32 degrees * DURATION...3 to 5 hours * IMPACTS...Sub-freezing temperatures will be a danger for pets, livestock and sensitive vegetation. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS... A Freeze Warning means sub-freezing temperatures are imminent or highly likely. These conditions will kill crops and other sensitive vegetation. *****************************************************
Hazardous Weather Outlook
Hazardous Weather Outlook National Weather Service Tampa Bay Ruskin FL 443 AM EST Thu Jan 4 2018 FLZ043-050-052-056-057-061-139-142-148-149-151-155-160-162-165- 239-242-248-249-251-255-260-262-265-GMZ830-836-850-853-856-870- 873-876-042300- Sumter-Pinellas-Polk-Hardee-Highlands-DeSoto-Coastal Levy- Coastal Citrus-Coastal Hernando-Coastal Pasco- Coastal Hillsborough-Coastal Manatee-Coastal Sarasota- Coastal Charlotte-Coastal Lee-Inland Levy-Inland Citrus- Inland Hernando-Inland Pasco-Inland Hillsborough-Inland Manatee- Inland Sarasota-Inland Charlotte-Inland Lee-Tampa Bay waters- Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound- Coastal waters from Tarpon Springs to Suwannee River FL out 20 NM- Coastal waters from Englewood to Tarpon Springs FL out 20 NM- Coastal waters from Bonita Beach to Englewood FL out 20 NM- Waters from Tarpon Springs to Suwannee River FL out 20 to 60 NM- Waters from Englewood to Tarpon Springs FL out 20 to 60 NM- Waters from Bonita Beach to Englewood FL out 20 to 60 NM- 443 AM EST Thu Jan 4 2018 This Hazardous Weather Outlook is for West Central And Southwest Florida. .DAY ONE...Today and Tonight. ...EXCESSIVE COLD IMPACT... The Arctic airmass in the region will keep the widespread freezing temperatures across the Nature coast, with typically colder locations to the south of the I-4 corridor also experiencing near freezing temperatures this morning and again tonight. Cold wind chill values also expected with a wind chill advisory in effect for all areas. Damage is likely to cold sensitive plants...and small pets left outdoors are also at risk. Cover plants and bring pets indoors. Residents venturing out this morning should dress warmly. Several layers of clothing will insulate you better than a single coat or jacket. .DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN...Friday through Wednesday. ...EXCESSIVE COLD IMPACT... The prolonged period of cold weather is expected through Saturday. Widespread freezing temperatures are expected each night across the Nature coast, with typically colder locations in the I-4 corridor also experiencing near freezing temperatures. Wind chills values are likely to drop below advisory criteria each night as well. A significant warm up will then begin Sunday. .SPOTTER INFORMATION STATEMENT... Spotter activation will not be needed today.