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Cold weather a historic threat to citrus industry


It's relatively easy for humans to bear up under the cold snap that has invaded a state that is usually warm, even in the winter months.


With extra clothes, indoor heating and more, people can wait for the mercury to go back up. But for the citrus industry, including farmers and workers, it can be a disaster.


Ralph Garrison of the Farm Bureau sent a Web page from the Florida Citrus Mutual Web site that details the impact of past freezes on the citrus industry. Florida supplies vast quantities of winter citrus to the U.S. and other countries, and a hard freeze that damages the crop can have a devastating economic impact on the state.


An "impact freeze" is, according to the site, a freeze so severe that it annihilates entire groves across the state, killing both mature and young citrus trees, while causing a profound economic impact on the citrus industry and usually prompting growers to replant farther south.


Here is a list of the state's major freezes and their impact on the citrus industry:


  • 1835: The impact freeze that occurred on Feb. 2-9 brought the lowest temperatures that had ever been recorded in north and central Florida. This freeze is considered an impact freeze because it ended attempts to commercially grow citrus in South Georgia, southeast South Carolina and in the northern part of Florida.

  • 1894-1895: The close proximity of the freezes of 1894 and 1895 created an impact freeze situation that devastated citrus growers and rearranged the geography of the Florida citrus industry. The first freeze occurred on Dec. 29-30, 1894. Immediately after, Florida experienced a month of warm weather, which made citrus more vulnerable for the second freeze on Feb. 8-9, 1895.

  • 1899: The freeze on Feb. 13-14 was one of the most severe in the history of the state and was a near-impact freeze. This freeze was unfortunate because it wiped out all of the hard work of growers since the freeze of 1895.

  • 1917: This freeze occurred on Feb. 2-6 and was the most serious freeze between 1899 and 1934.

  • 1934: This freeze hit Florida on Dec. 12-13. It was so severe that it led to the creation of the Federal-State Frost Warning Service.

  • 1940: January 1940 is the coldest month on record in Florida history, with a mean temperature of 49.7 degrees Fahrenheit. The freeze occurred at the end of the month on Jan. 27-29, delivering the coldest temperatures growers had seen since 1899. Fortunately, the Frost Warning Service predicted this freeze well in advance.

  • 1957: The 1957 freeze occurred near the end of the year on Dec. 12-13 and was the most severe to hit the state since 1940.

  • 1962: This freeze hit exactly five years (to the day) after the freeze of 1957. The freezing temperatures arrived in Florida on Dec. 12-13, creating the third impact freeze in the state of Florida. It was considered an impact freeze because it caused the most damage to trees and fruit of any other 20th-century freeze to date.

  • 1977: This freeze occurred on Jan. 18-20 and is comparable to the 1962 freeze. This freeze created the rare conditions in Florida for snow to stick to the ground. The freeze of 1977 also reinforced and accelerated grower movement south.

  • 1981: Hard freezing temperatures arrived in Florida on Jan. 12-14. This freeze was comparable to the freeze of 1977.

  • 1983: This freeze was more severe than the 1977 and 1981 freezes. It occurred on Dec. 24-25 and was so detrimental because the Frost Warning Service missed the forecast. By the time growers knew about the freeze, much of the damage was already done.

  • 1985: The freeze of 1985 occurred on Jan. 20-22. It was a hard freeze; however, its effects were felt so severely because growers had not yet recovered from the 1983 freeze. The combined effects of the freezes of 1983 and 1985 added up to an impact freeze situation.

  • 1989: This freeze occurred on Dec. 22-26. This freeze was the fifth impact freeze recorded in Florida history; however, it was the second impact freeze in a single decade, leaving growers little time to recover after the freezes of 1983 and 1985.



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