The Heat Is Online

Record Freeze Hits Florida

Record-Breaking Cold Hits Florida
The Associated Press,
Feb. 28, 2002

TAMPA, Fla. -- Florida farmers checked their fields and groves for damage early Thursday after a night of record-breaking low temperatures across much of the South.

A hard freeze extended up to 100 miles south of the Georgia line, well north of the primary winter agriculture areas, and temperatures dropped to or below freezing well to the south, according to the National Weather Service.

"We've had record breaking all over," said Ron Block, a weather service meteorologist in Tallahassee. During a hard freeze, temperatures hit the mid-20s and stay there at least six to eight hours.

The cold extended throughout the South on Thursday morning. Temperatures in Atlanta and Athens, Ga., dropped to 18 degrees. Farther north, Charlotte and Asheville, N.C., both saw record lows of 14 degrees, and in Tennessee, overnight lows dropped to 16 in Nashville and Knoxville and 22 in Memphis.

Florida farmers and growers said Thursday morning it was too early to know what damage was caused by the overnight cold.

Much of the concern centered around strawberries, blueberries and tomatoes, as well as the citrus blossoms, which had come out in earlier, warmer weeks.

At Parksdale Farms, a leading strawberry farm east of Tampa, partner Bobby Parke said temperatures dropped to about 28 degrees for three hours or so. That wasn't enough to do major damage, but he won't know how many plants were lost until the ice melts. Like others in the region, he turned sprinklers on his delicate crops Wednesday night to give them an insulating blanket of ice.

"Everything looks real good," Parke said, noting the fields were still in the height of production when the unusually late cold snap hit.

Asked if the cold snap at least made him nervous, the veteran farmer shrugged it off. "Nah, I've done this too many times," he said.

The Panhandle city of Crestview, sometimes called the icebox of Florida, recorded the lowest temperature in the state at 14 degrees.

Tallahassee set a record low of 18 degrees. The previous record for Feb. 28 of 24 degrees was set in 1935. Apalachicola also set a record low of 23 degrees, sinking below the 27 degrees recorded in 1935.

Jacksonville and Gainesville both tied their record lows with 25 degrees.

Block said a mild freeze could return Thursday night, but the state will gradually warm over the next two days.

In Cape Canaveral, where the launch of the shuttle Columbia was delayed until Friday because of the cold, the temperature fell to 39 degrees.

Copyright © 2002, The Associated Press

Record cold temperatures in South, Feb. 28, 2002

A record-shattering hard freeze gripped the South on Thursday, with temperatures into the 20s extending to 100 miles south of the Georgia line, as light winter storm systems moved across the Great Lakes, Northeast and Plains.

Florida farmers who spent a nervous night guarding their fields and groves reported no major damage from the cold snap.

The Panhandle city of Crestview recorded the Florida's lowest temperature at 14 degrees. Tallahassee set a record at 18, and Jacksonville and Gainesville tied records at 25.

Macon, Georgia, had a low of 19, breaking its record for the date of 20 set in 1920. Columbus tied its record low of 22, set in 1963.

The eastern Great Lakes and east Maine saw light snow, with snow showers also falling over Wisconsin and isolated areas of Michigan.

Winds gusted up to 35 miles-per-hour in parts of New England, as the eastbound storm system brought clouds and light snow.

Farther west, a system in the Rockies was pushing southeast, bringing mostly cloudy skies and scattered snow showers to areas of Idaho and Montana.

The South saw little precipitation, with Gulf of Mexico moisture bringing clouds to parts of south Texas, including some light rain and drizzle on the coast.

South Florida also saw mostly cloudy skies, as moisture oozed in from the east and south, and low clouds slung over southern coastal California were dissipating.

Otherwise, the Mid-Atlantic through southern Plains states remained dry and fair all the way to southern California.

Temperatures in the Lower 48 states on Thursday ranged from a high of 76 degrees in Palm Springs, California, to a low of minus-8 in Pellston, Michigan.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press