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article imageFlorida Orange Growers Brace for Possible Killing Freeze

By Owen Weldon     Jan 9, 2010 in World
Orange growers in Florida are preparing to deal for record cold to hit the citrus belt as an Arctic blast plunges temperatures into the kill zone Saturday and Sunday nights.
Tampa Bay and some parts of Orlando reported sleet and snow mixed with rain. This is the first time snow or sleet has hit west-central Florida since 1996, according to the national weather service in Tampa. The immediate Tampa Bay area has not seen snow since 1989.
In Plant city, Fla, icicles could be seen hanging from an orange tree after it was sprayed with water throughout the night. The water was sprayed to protect other plants within the nursery from cold weather in the state.
Citrus growers fared well on Friday night as tempatures remained above critical levels in the heart of the citrus belt. Now there are worries as a strong arctic high pressure system bears down on the area.
When mercury falls below 28 degrees Fahrenheit for three or more hours citrus sustains damage.
There is now a freeze warning for much of central and southern Florida from 9 p.m. Saturday to 9 a.m. on Sunday. This means that temperatures are expected to dip from 27 f to 32 f for three or more hours over a widespread area.
Florida's main citrus belt runs from Tampa Bay on the gulf side of the state, through Orlando and up to Daytona beach on the Atlantic coast.
The coasts are expected to see temperatures around 30 f but inland areas will likely see mid-20s F readings for six to ten hours, according to the National Weather Service.
The NSW said the only areas that may be able to escape the freezing temperatures are along the immediate gulf coast and around Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor.
The citrus industry in Florida has been under pressure owing to the freezing temperatures, which have so far caused only isolated damage to the 2009-10 orange crop. Frozen concentrated orange juice futures have gained 17% amid fears that crop damage could be substantial. This has not happened in two decades.
As of now orange growers continue to harvest as much of the early orange crop as possible before the cold weather has the chance to affect the fruit.
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