Industries across Florida crushed by cold

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Frigid temperatures are rough on Floridians, but the cold can be even harsher on local crops. Many area farmers fear a frost or freeze could wipe out their livelihood.

Todd Jameson inspects the leaves, berries, and blooms at Berry Bay Farms in Wimauma, checking for any damage from the overnight cold snap.

“I saw a few damaged plants where the leaves were burned, I was really expecting to see more then what I saw, I was very pleased,” Jameson said.

There was a low of 27-degrees overnight while Jameson and his crew worked to protect the crop. For nine hours, they sprayed water over the fields to create a layer of ice, a move that insulates the strawberry plants.

“We made the decision at 2 o’clock this morning to crank up when the thermometer hit 33 degrees,” said Jameson. “We had enough wind we felt we needed to crank up before we hit that freezing mark.”

The biting cold can also be dire for local fish breeders.

At Imperial Tropicals in Lakeland, plastic tarps cover the nearly 200 ponds full of fish starting in October.

“These fish come from different parts of the world where they’re not used to this kind of temperature, so it can get cold enough that they could die,” Mike Drawdy said.

He says a string of harsh weather is worse than one frosty night, and so far it appears the fish are fine. However, the dip in temps could still make the fish sick, lingering effects that will show up after a few days.

Kumquat groves in Pasco County didn’t have the same luck.

We’re told all of the fruits froze overnight at Kumquat Growers. The entire crop will now be harvested and turned into jellies, jams and sauces instead of being sold as fresh fruit.

“We were able to run irrigation on a majority of it,” said Greg Gude. “We can’t irrigate everything at once because we don’t have a big enough well system to do it.”