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Florida growers relieved as third night of freezing temperatures fails to materialize

by Chip Carter | December 08, 2010
TAMPA, FL -- Florida growers breathed a collective sigh of relief as a third consecutive night of sub-freezing weather predicted for Dec. 8 and the early hours of Dec. 9 failed to materialize.

Overnight lows were originally forecast to plunge below freezing again in the early hours of Dec. 9, but instead dipped just to the low and mid-30s across central Florida and into the 40s and 50s in south Florida.

Temperatures are projected to warm up Dec. 9-12, rising as high as the mid- 80s in some parts of the state over the weekend. But another arctic blast is forecast to move in Monday, Dec. 13, bringing temperatures that threaten to be even colder than the Dec. 6-8 snap that shattered records across the state.

Citrus and strawberries appeared to have survived the first wave of cold intact, with very little damage noted in any of the state's production areas. Winter vegetables have been damaged to varying degrees. Fragile beans and corn were hardest hit. Tomato crops were singed by frost across the state. A clear picture of how much damage was caused by the sub-freezing weather will not be available for several days.

According to the National Weather Service, a blocking pattern hovering over the Atlantic Ocean off New England has left the door open for frosty air from Canada to flow into the eastern United States. That pattern is expected to persist through at least Dec. 20, despite the Dec. 9-12 warming trend.

Meanwhile, orange-juice futures Dec. 9 soared to their highest level since May 2007, reflecting fears that the Dec. 13 cold front may be more severe than the Dec. 6-8 blast. January futures rose 3.3 percent to $1.66 per pound and may move even higher as the next cold front approaches the state.