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  • bluecheese4u bluecheese4u Feb 18, 2013 6:28 PM Flag


    Crops Escape Major Damage

    Cold not severe enough, but some worry about possible damage to citrus blooms

    By Tom Palmer
    Published: Monday, February 18, 2013 at 7:47 a.m.
    Last Modified: Monday, February 18, 2013 at 4:47 p.m.
    LAKELAND | Sunday night's freeze brought local farmers outdoors to check their crops and homeless people indoors to escape an uncomfortable night outdoors.

    Farmers reported no major crop damage, industry officials said Monday.

    "Statewide we came out in pretty good shape," said Andrew Meadows, spokesman for Florida Citrus Mutual in Lakeland. "There have not been any reports of damage."

    Meadows said the only concern – growers won't have a clear picture for a few days – is whether the cold weather affected the blooms on many citrus trees now as a result of warm winter weather.

    A serious loss of blooms could affect next year's citrus crop, he said.

    Last month was tied to be the 10th warmest January on record since local weather records began in 1915, according to the National Weather Service.

    Until last weekend, February weather has been pretty mild, too.

    As a result, there have been reports of many plants blooming earlier than usual.

    Strawberries, the other large cold-sensitive crop in the area, seemed to have escaped damage as well, said Carl Grooms of Fancy Farms in Plant City.

    "We had water on them from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m.," he said. "There was a real heavy frost."

    He said temperatures dropped to 30 degrees in his fields.

    Citrus Mutual's Meadows said although there were reports from the Lake Wales area of brief drips into the 20s, there were no reports of prolonged cold below 28 that would have damaged trees.

    He said the only places that might have sustained some damage were isolated pockets of low-lying land.

    Temperatures varied quite a bit Monday morning around Polk County, according to data compiled by the National Weather Service in Ruskin.

    Lows ranged from 27 in Poinciana to 39 near Frostproof.

    The freezing weather was a challenge for the area's homeless.

    Tony Fusaro, director of Talbot House Ministries in Lakeland, said their shelter near downtown Lakeland was packed.

    "We had 172 people, which meant 21 people slept on the floor because we didn't have enough beds,'' he said.

    Fortunately, the cold weather was short-lived.

    The forecast for the rest of the week calls for nighttime lows from the upper 40s through the lower 60s through the weekend.

    No rain is forecast.


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