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Pasco citrus, fish farm escape overnight freeze damage

Landscaper Johnny Fuller bundles up against the freezing cold while making his morning rounds at Saint Leo University Wednesday.

STEPHEN J. CODDINGTON | Times

Landscaper Johnny Fuller bundles up against the freezing cold while making his morning rounds at Saint Leo University Wednesday.

Pasco residents had to bundle up Tuesday for the coldest night of the season so far, but most of the county's farmers escaped crop damage.

Temperatures fell as low as 21 degrees in Zephyrhills, while Wesley Chapel recorded 29 early Wednesday and New Port Richey hit 28.

"Some areas might have gotten a lot colder earlier in the night than others, and stayed that way," said Bay News 9 meteorologist Juli Marquez. After another chilly night Wednesday, temperatures are expected to warm up again.

That's good news for area farmers. Pasco's citrus and kumquat crops can typically handle temperatures in the high 20s, said county Extension Director B.J. Jarvis. More susceptible row crops such as strawberries are mostly concentrated in east Hillsborough.

"Last night was a little warmer, thankfully, than had been predicted," she said.

Dade City's non-profit Morningstar Fishermen also survived the night without any dead fish, executive director Phil Reasons said. The group, which helps impoverished countries establish aquaculture, lost about 2,000 of its 10,000 fish two years ago to cold weather.

This year, the group was prepared with a wood-fired water percolator. The contraption with two steel tanks heats water that is pumped through the 30,000-gallon outdoor water system.

"The fish are happy," Reasons said. "We didn't lose any, thank God for that."

Pasco citrus, fish farm escape overnight freeze damage 01/04/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 4, 2012 8:36pm]
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