Florida farmers dodged a bullet Jan. 13-14 when a second consecutive night
of sub-freezing temperatures failed to materialize. In most of the state's
production areas, high cloud cover moved in overnight and acted as a blanket
to trap the ground's heat and keep temperatures from dropping to forecast
The cloud cover settled in south of Hernando County, about an hour north of
Tampa, FL, and west of Orlando. Most of the state's winter crops are produced
south of Hernando County. In Brooksville, Hernando's county seat,
temperatures dropped below freezing after midnight.
Meanwhile, in major production areas, temperatures were more moderate.
Lows reached just 35 degrees in Hillsborough County (Tampa Bay) and in
Plant City, home to most of the state's strawberry production. In Polk County,
a citrus stalwart, lows dipped into the mid-30s. Row crops and tomatoes
were spared further damage, as lows hit 42 in Immokalee (southwest Florida)
and West Palm Beach (southeast Florida). In Belle Glade, on the eastern shores
of Lake Okeechobee and home to sugar cane and row crops, temperatures
were a relatively balmy 48 degrees.
Highs in the low 60s are expected across most of the state Jan. 14, with a
continual warmup through the weekend and a return to normal temperatures
in the 70s by Monday, Jan. 17.
Last month was the coldest December on record in Florida, with temperatures
averaging 30 degrees below normal. Temperatures as cold as 17 degrees
were noted in some production areas, and records fell across the state. Sunny
Daytona Beach reached a bone-chilling 24 degrees Dec. 27, and temperatures
in the 20s were recorded as far south as Belle Glade and West Palm Beach.
Even the southernmost areas of the state recorded multiple nights of sub-
Meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Tampa said that a high
pressure system circulating over eastern Canada called the Arctic Oscillation
left the door open for frigid winds to stab deep into the southeastern United
States. That is the same weather pattern that led to more than 30 nights of
sub-freezing weather for Florida farmers in January and February 2010 and
resulted in an uncharacteristically cold December and January 2011 to date.
NWS meteorologists are optimistic that the Arctic Oscillation is breaking up.
As it does so, a La Nina weather pattern will become more prominent,
repositioning the high jet stream north of Interstate 4 (which bisects Florida
east-west) and resulting in a warmer, dry winter for most Florida growers.