JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - With all of Florida under a freeze warning, citrus and other farmers prepared Wednesday for possibly damaging temperatures into the teens and 20s.
Florida’s citrus industry, the biggest in the U.S., is already struggling from years of diseases and hurricanes, and a serious freeze would be devastating. This one, forecast for Wednesday night and Thursday, isn’t expected to be too bad.
“Growers are definitely concerned anytime the temperature is forecast to dip near 30 degrees,” said Andrew Meadows of Florida Citrus Mutual, an advocacy group. “We will have a lot of growers across the state pulling all-nighters and keeping a close watch on their groves and the temperature. We are cautiously optimistic the industry can weather this cold snap without significant damage.”
To help growers, Gov. Charlie Crist signed an emergency order to relax restrictions on transporting produce.
All of Florida, from Miami to the Panhandle, was under a freeze warning Wednesday, and record lows in the teens and 20s were expected in some areas. At risk are plants and produce including broccoli, cabbage, strawberries, tomatoes and citrus.
Crops can withstand some cold, but not for long. Thirty-two degrees for four hours will damage an orange, for example, but 28 degrees for that long can actually ruin the tree.