Brooksville blueberry farmer George Casey, 67, and his wife, Joan, 66, were planning to take turns Tuesday night waking up every two hours to check on their 10 acres of plants, which are in the blossom stage.
"Our quality time together," George Casey said wearily.
About 3 a.m., they were planning to turn on their 500 to 600 sprinklers to blanket the plants in a protective frost. The water can run for hours, and sometimes the sprinkler heads freeze up with ice, so they must be checked constantly.
"You have to take a stick and knock the ice off," he said.
Casey is just one of many Hernando County farmers and residents keeping a close eye on what was expected to be the coldest weather of the winter Tuesday night.
The National Weather Service predicted temperatures would dive to between 24 and 27 degrees during the early morning hours. And another hard freeze warning is forecast for tonight, with temperatures possibly plunging even further — to between 20 and 25 degrees.
Combined with brisk wind gusts, it will feel like it's in the mid teens, said National Weather Service meteorologist Jennifer Colson.
"With the freezing temperatures, those winds will have very cold wind chill values," she said.
The prolonged hard freeze could have a devastating effect on area crops if farmers don't take great care to protect them.
Colson warned boaters, surfers and small-aircraft pilots of the strong winds. A high surf advisory will be in effect for the next couple of days.