Sunshine state pierced with record cold

My Fox Tampa Bay – December 28, 2010

The arctic air over Florida broke a slew of records across the state overnight, as farmers and residents dealt with the second brutal cold snap the state has seen this month.

More than a dozen cities broke record lows, including Tallahassee, where the temperature plunged to 18 degrees.

Temperatures in the Bay Area remained in the 20s and low 30s early Tuesday morning, and had even dropped into the teens in parts of Hernando County.

Frost coated some of the airplanes at Tampa International Airport overnight while steam was seen rising from storm drains along major roadways.

The polar air mass brought a hard freeze warning to 49 Florida counties. The other 18 counties were under a freeze warning, including parts of Miami-Dade County.

In fact, Miami Beach set a new record low with 40 degrees. It broke the old record of 44 degrees set in 1980.

Millions of dollars of crop damages

The Department of Agriculture estimates that across the state, the total crop damage due to the cold has reached at least $115 million so far. With the freeze warnings again slamming the state, there is no telling just yet what additional losses could amount to.

Even with last winter’s deep freeze that lasted several days, some farmers expect this winter to be the coldest in Florida in a long time.

The record cold blast seems to be sending orange juice prices to a new high. Right now, fresh orange juice is selling for more than $5 per gallon, the highest price since May 2007.

Orange juice prices have risen 14 percent in December due to the repeated freezes. Florida is the largest orange-producing state in the country.

Another cold night ahead

FOX 13 meteorologist Jim Weber says the highs should reach into the 50s today, but more freezing temperatures in the inland areas of the state can be expected Tuesday night.

Farmers are feeling the brunt of the cold weather; Monday was another long, stressful night as strawberry farmers once again had the sprinklers running to keep their berries frozen.

“We had minimal damage out of the last seven freeze events,” said Carl Grooms, who runs Fancy Farms in Plant City. “This one is actually considered major compared to them because it went a few degrees colder and so we’re yet … to see what the result of this gonna be.”

Plant City farmers say they will keep their sprinklers on until the air temperature reaches at least 32 degrees. They say the cold has kept their berries from ripening more quickly than usual, and that means less money for them. Citrus and various other crop farmers have also been on pins and needles getting through the cold.

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