January 8, 2010

Freeze Report Update 5, Jan.8

Following is today's freeze update as reported by our AG-ER response teams around the state. We will continuously update you on events and/or measures as they occur. (Updated 3:50pm)

Hardee - No irrigation was run last night as the cold moderated. Grove owners and berry growers are hoping for drying conditions today with little precipitation tonight and into the weekend. They expect Sunday morning to be really bad with lows in the 20’s and possibly the teens and the possibility of winds that will interfere with their watering and misting. (Diana Durrance, Wauchula Senior Market Manager)

Flagler/Volusia - The prolonged bout of freezing temperatures produces mixed results for area crops. It may be weeks before the full extent of damage is known. It threatens the fern crop and reduces the amount of time cutters can be in the fields during the busy Valentine's Day season. The long hours of freezing cold means fruit must be picked within the next two weeks. However, the steady cold helps protect damaged cabbage plants in Flagler County by limiting disease spores from attacking damaged leaves on the plants being grown and harvested through late next month, right now the cabbage looks good. The frost and ice on the plants stress them and there are lost production days, there is some wilt and burned leaves. Flagler County growers are spraying the plants to help kill and prevent any diseases from taking hold. (David Griffis, coop. ext. Dir.,Volusia County / AG agent Mark Warren)

Mia/Dade - We were very fortunate with the cloud cover and winds staying up night before last. We stay in contact with the local forecast office of NWS here in Miami on their webinar each afternoon. Though actuals have differed from the forecast somewhat, it always been for the good so far. We are monitoring the situation here for the weekend.
(Don Pybas, Ext. Director, IFAS)

South FL – For Saturday and Sunday night The National Weather Service forecasts a hard freeze for most of Florida, overnight temperatures are expected to hit around 30 degrees in the Belle Glade and Immokalee tomato and vegetable growing regions. The weather service says freezing temperatures for those regions are expected to hit in the normally colder spots. The freeze damaged some older squash plantings. The new plantings seem to be okay with no damage, the pepper fields appear to be okay as well. Fields are being covered up today and tomorrow in preparation of the coming cold weather. At this time it is too early to provide an estimate on damages. (Jim Monteith, sales mgr., Pacific Collier Fresh Co., Immokalee)

Wildlife - At least 269 sea turtles, mostly endangered green sea turtles and a few loggerheads, which became lethargic in frigid water that shocked their tropically inclined systems, were found floating in the Mosquito Lagoon in eastern Florida and rescued Wednesday. Snook and other subtropical fish going belly-up in the Brevard County's northernmost waters, with some dying as their metabolism slowed and they stopped eating. (Dorn Whitmore, chief ranger, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge)
In Gulf County more than 200 cold-stunned turtles were rescued Thursday from the frigid waters of St. Joseph Bay. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
The cold was helping get rid of iguanas, a nuisance not native to the state, iguanas lose consciousness, fall from trees and die of the cold. (Gabriella Ferraro, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

Dade County - Few boats out yesterday and today, catching mostly King Mackerel and Spiny Lobster, but will be shut down again for the weekend. (Incredible Fish, Tim Lycke, Miami)
Franklin County - Oyster production is still doing fine. The cold temperatures are actually better for the oysters. (Buddy Ward’s 13 mile, Leavins, Apalachicola
Escambia County - They still have fresh fish to sell. They are not out fishing in this cold weather. No boats in the area are out commercially fishing. (Joe Patti’s, Frank Patti, Pensacola)
Nassau County - Cold waters have forced young shrimp and fish into ocean and warmer waters. It will be June or July before the extent of damage to the shrimp is known. (Gerald Pack, Fernandina)

Polk County - OK so far. Covered ponds and circulating water. (Interstate Tropical Fish Hatchery, Lakeland)
Seeing severe losses in open ponds and also seeing losses in the covered ponds today. Will not know the extent for a couple of weeks when they seine the ponds. (Sunrise Tropicals, Lakeland)
Started losing fish in open ponds two days ago-could be total loss in open ponds. Yesterday saw losses in covered ponds, 2 farms in Lakeland and 2 farms in Plant City. Plant city farms are open ponds. Expecting more impact from the cold this weekend (Aquatica Tropicals, Lakeland)
Losses of tilapia in covered ponds w/circulating water. Half of his breeders in greenhouse tanks, Koi are doing fine so far. (Hammond Koi & Sea Aquaculture, Leesburg)
Subsidizing with well water. Metabolic rates are slowest seen in 7 years. When it is time to spawn, the numbers will be lower. They have no ecological problems as they are composting dead fish. Oldest fish are dying due to cold waters. Sunday is expected to be the most difficult day. (Mike Rodriguez, Lake Wales)
Volusia County – Using solar and propane heat, coverings and circulating 72 degree water and is still losing fish. Cichlids are more cold hardy than most other tropicals (except koi and goldfish). Even though he has tried to protect fish from severe temps, fish are still dying. The fish start exhibiting sores & distress then ultimately perish. Total losses not known till a couple of weeks. (Mike’s Cichlids, New Smyrna)
Brevard County - Breeders in greenhouse tanks. Outside covered ponds showing signs of damage. Open ponds (154) showing big losses. (could be 100% on open ponds) Outlook for the weekend is grim with cloudy skies today and tomorrow and low temps. He is expecting more losses. (Aqua Blue Cichlids)
Will know next week how many fish have died.(Kingery Farms, Melbourne)
Hillsborough County - Saltwater tropical fish in inside tanks are faring okay but not as good as usual in a freeze due to the duration. Ornamental flame scallops dead yesterday. This is a low cost item and they did not have a large quantity so the loss will not be significant in terms of dollars. They contribute the loss to the fact that they are having trouble keeping the water at 60° consistently. (Margaret Carleton, Seaview Wholesale Marine Life, Inc., Dover)
Hillsborough Community College lost nearly 100% of their Fire-mouthed Meekies (South American cichlid) at the Ruskin facility. It would only be a couple hundred dollars to replace the brood fish, but the fry they would produce this Spring would be potentially another $3,000-$6,000. (Craig Kasper, Aquaculture Program Manager, Hillsborough Community College)
Segrest Farms has 180 tropical fish ponds and buys from 90% of the other tropical fish farms in the state. Segrest is seeing dead fish on about 10% of their ponds. They are in southern Hillsborough County. Other farm losses are ranging 25%-50% with the higher numbers in northern Hillsborough County and further inland in Polk County and surrounding area. Fish are staying on the bottom and not feeding so it is difficult to tell at this point if they are dead and what the full damage is. By next Thursday or Friday, farmers will begin making decisions whether to drain ponds to see what they have. It may be possible to put a dollar value on the losses by then. After the freeze, if the temps warm up too fast, there is another potential problem. The surviving stocks could develop fungus and disease especially in covered ponds. (Mike Norton, Segrest Farms, Gibsonton)
Counties currently affected are Hillsborough, Polk, Hardy and Volusia. They will not be able to know until it warms up how many of the fish that are on the bottom are just lethargic or dead. When it warms up they will also be facing fungus and disease because the fish are weakened. Farmers do begin preventive antibiotic and fungus treatment when waters begin warming. He says all the guppies are gone. Farmers should be able to start putting dollars to the losses by the end of next week. (Art Rawlins, Rawlins Tropical Fish, Lithia, 813-737-3418),)
Dade County - Pumping warm water all day this week and will keep the pumps running. No losses yet.(American Shrimp Farm, Belamino Enriquez, Homestead)
Pumps still running, everything still OK but very concerned about this weekend. (Angels Hatchery, Paul Radice, Homestead)
Wakulla County - Will not know any damage until Sunday. If the clams are exposed to the cold air for an extended period there is potential for damage to babies and adults. Mostly the clams bury themselves in the sand. Sometimes the loss does not occur for many months down the road. Will be pulling clams from the shallow waters to move to deeper waters. Some clam farmers in the area have been manually covering clams with sand. (Southern Clams, Clayton Lewis, St. Teresa Island)
Putnam County - Some loss of fish, able to assess damages in a week or two. (Dugan Whiteside, Hastings)
NOTE: Art Rawlins, President of Florida Tropical Fish Farmers Association, is calling the freeze effect a “catastrophe” and although they will not have hard data until the end of next week he thinks the affected counties should be declared a National Disaster.

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