TAMPA, FL -- Florida farmers scrambled to protect already battered crops
from yet another hard freeze that surprised much of the state in the early
hours of Jan. 13. Forecasts initially called for temperatures near freezing, but
as the evening of Jan. 12 progressed, frigid winds frosted north and central
Florida as temperatures dipped into the low 20s with winds gusting to 20
mph and chill factors in the teens.
A high-pressure Arctic front pushed into the Deep South in the latter hours
of Jan. 12 and will persist through Jan. 13 and into the early hours of Jan. 14
before beginning to break up, according to the National Weather Service.
Strawberry growers in Plant City, FL, ran sprinklers from early evening Jan. 12
until well after dawn Jan. 13 to protect a crop just recovering from multiple
sub-freezing nights in December.
While most citrus-production areas of the state were spared duration of
temperatures cold enough to do damage, some growers still misted groves to
protect crops in transition from early- to mid-season varieties.
Row crops and tomatoes, both devastated by December's freezes, were
spared further damage as the Jan. 12-13 cold front stalled north of major
The National Weather Service issued hard freeze warnings for north and
west-central Florida through the early hours of Jan. 13, and temperatures
dipped as low as 25 degrees in Ocala, FL, about an hour north of Tampa. A
hard freeze watch is in effect for those same areas Jan. 13-14, as
temperatures are again projected to dip well below freezing for several hours
between dusk and dawn.
In Pasco, Hillsborough and Polk counties -- home to most of the state's
strawberry crop and some of its citrus -- a freeze watch is in effect for Jan.
13-14, meaning freezing temperatures are again possible, though not as
severe as Jan. 12-13. Temperatures in those areas are expected to bottom
out in the upper 20s to low 30s, with two to four hours of sub-freezing
Daytime temperatures Jan. 12 hovered in the 50s -- some 20 degrees cooler
than average -- and were projected to rise into the 60s Jan. 13, with a return
to normal temperatures over the weekend of Jan. 15-16.
The December freezes have already hurt Florida's economy to the tune of at
least $250 million, with damage to some crops still being tallied.
While Floridians shivered through the latest chill, they took some solace in the
fact that Florida is the only one of the 50 states without snow on the ground
at the moment. Even Hawaii has been touched by this winter's brashness, with
the National Weather Service reporting seven inches of snow atop Mauna Kea
on Jan. 11.
Ironically, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration announced Jan.
12 that 2010 was the warmest year recorded worldwide since 1880, tying
2005 for that distinction. It was the 23rd warmest year on record for the