January 10, 2010

Freeze Report Update 7, Jan. 10

Following are the latest field reports,temperature forecasts, and warnings related to our current freeze. (updated 2:45pm)

Highs this afternoon will reach only into the mid 40s over the northern half of the state, with only low to mid 50s expected further south. Breezy north-northwest winds of 10-15 mph will make conditions feel much colder, especially during the morning, as wind chills will range from the teens over the north to lower 20s in the south. Wind Chill Advisories and Wind Chill Warnings are in effect for nearly the entire state, including the Keys.

Tonight, Freeze Watches and Freeze Warnings continue as freezing temperatures will once again reach as far south as the South Florida mainland. Lows are forecast to drop into the upper teens to low 20s from the Panhandle to North Central Florida, with mid to upper 20s forecast for the remainder of Central Florida southward into interior South Florida. Temperatures in the Keys are forecast to dip into the low to mid 40s. Locations along the immediate coast will be slightly warmer; however, a brief period of temperatures at or below freezing cannot be completely ruled out. Durations of sub-freezing temperatures will be around 12-14 hours across North Florida, 6-12 hours across Central Florida, and 3-6 hours across South Florida.

Tonight’s Forecast:

Lake Okeechobee south to the tip of mainland - 25-35degrees for 3-6hrs
Colder in the interior

Lake Okeechobee north to I-4 – below freezing for 6-12hrs
Colder in the interior

I-4 north to the Suwannee river – 17-22degrees for 12-14hrs
Colder in the interior

Power – No capacity issues

Red Cross – Opening and closing shelters on a “as need basis”
Vulnerable population i.e. residents with no or little heat, migrant worker families in addition to homeless are using the shelters. Shelters are using foodbank resources i.e. toiletries , etc.

Emergency Vehicles – All medical facilities anticipated the freeze and all are in good shape

DOT – St Lucie bridge is still closed

Strawberries - Growers had another very difficult night. Temperatures were barely 40 at midnight on Friday and have remained in the 30's and 20's through 11:30 Sunday morning. Last night was below freezing for at least 14 hours - compounded by a low dew point which requires watering above the 32 degree point to prevent evaporative cooling effect on the plants. Some fields reached as low as 20 degrees overnight, and damage will be assessed over the coming days. The wind velocity was higher last night, so some areas will certainly be freeze burned where constant overhead irrigation could not be achieved. The higher wind also created the unintended consequence of icing on roads adjacent to some farms due to drift and runoff. FSGA is working with the Department of Transportation, County Public Works, and the Sheriff's Office to close & mark affected roads and to warn motorists in general to be alert to such conditions. Workers grabbed paintbrushes and bottles of lubricant to coat sprinkler heads — a precaution taken only during the coldest weather. When it's really cold, ice forms on the sprinklers and they can't move. Large patches of valuable plants could die. Strawberries are scarce now because the plants don't produce many berries when they're cold, so farmers are getting higher prices for their fruit. That doesn't mean much when overhead is high — the pumps use expensive diesel fuel — and there's not much to pick. Most farmers don’t have crop insurance. A pilot federal strawberry crop insurance program no longer exists. Disaster relief, if farmers qualify, comes in the form of low-interest loans. (Fancy Farms / Ted Campbell, FSGA)
Strawberries are the top commodity in Hillborough County. There are 8,700 acres of strawberries in the County, and farmers produced about $315 million worth of berries in 2008. If the crop were wiped out, that would be a significant economic blow to the county and the state, as well as to individual farmers. (Stephen Gran, director of Hillsborough's Agriculture Industry Development)

West Central Florida - Last night we experienced a devastating hard freeze throughout the region with temperatures well below freezing for a prolonged period of time; more than 14 hours. Strawberry growers turned their sprinklers on between 6:30-7:00 p.m. and still had them operating at 11:00 a.m., this morning. In speaking with a few older growers, they informed me they have never experienced weather this cold for as many consecutive days as these past few weeks. Tonight is forecast to be even colder than last night. Growers fear they may have to turn on their sprinklers even earlier tonight. Total extent of the damage may not be known for a couple of weeks.(Cindy Suszko, Regional Ag Market Supervisor , Plant City)

Eastern Pasco County – Kumquat Growers Inc. one of the nation's largest distributor of kumquats, said there wasn't anything that could be done to protect all 45 acres of the small citrus fruit. "We're just going to sit here and hope. (Frank Gude, co-owner of Kumquat Growers Inc)

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