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Winter Chill Sweeps Over Florida

January 24, 2005

MIAMI (AP) _ Freezing temperatures extended into central Florida early Monday, making it one of the coldest mornings of the winter and giving fruit and vegetable growers a scare.

Freezing temperatures registered as far south as the central Florida city of Ocala, which recorded a low of 25 degrees, and Tampa was stuck at around 32 for three hours. Marathon in the Florida Keys reported a low of 49 _ with a wind chill of 37.

The cold snap had worried farmers, but the National Weather Service said temperatures did not fall below 30 in the critical areas.

``In terms of widespread concerns, we got lucky,″ said Barry Goldsmith, a National Weather Service meteorologist in the Tampa Bay suburb of Ruskin. ``Temperatures on their own did not fall below 30 degrees in the critical areas.″

Reggie Brown, manager of the trade group Florida Tomatoes called it ``a very near miss.″ Lows at or near freezing lasted for four hours in the coldest of the big production areas near Immokalee, roughly halfway between Miami and Tampa.

``I doubt we had any frost. Plants don’t like it but we probably didn’t hurt anything other than some blow down,″ Brown said.

Casey Pace, a spokesman for Florida Citrus Mutual, told the St. Petersburg Times that farmers would irrigate crops with warm water.

Goldsmith said growers would have to be on guard again Monday night.

High temperatures Monday were forecast in the lower 50s in north Florida, the mid-50s in the central part of the state, and the lower to mid-60s in southern Florida and the Keys.

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