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It's not freezing, but sure feels like it

Temperatures dropped, but not drastically, to many farmers' relief. For others, the weather still brought chills.

Published January 31, 2007

[Times photo: Julia Kumari Drapkin]
Jorge Luna, 6, left, and his sister, Eva Luna, 8, wear their winter jackets to keep warm in their home, heated by a gas stove and a small space heater.

SAN ANTONIO - After hearing forecasts of a hard freeze, Bob Barthle had planned to pull an all-nighter Monday to watch over his citrus trees.

But when he saw cloud cover, he knew that temperatures were not going to fall fast enough to merit using sprinklers to keep the trees warm.

Barthle was right. According to the National Weather Service, temperatures dipped to only 35 degrees Monday night in St. Leo, the location of Pasco's monitoring station.

"I don't foresee any damage happening because of last night," Barthle said. "We kind of needed this cold weather because with all this warm weather, the trees were trying to bloom and sprout, which is way too early in the season for them."

Farther north in Brooksville, it dipped to 29 degrees about 5 a.m., after the cloud cover had broken, meteorologist Jennifer Colson said.

Temperatures need to dip to 27 degrees for at least four hours before citrus is at risk, Barhtle said.

Growers still had to take precautions. Jim McCabe, owner of McCabe Farms in San Antonio, which grows indoor tropical plants, said he monitored the temperature to make sure their gas heaters would keep the foliage inside nurseries warm.

In Land O'Lakes, David Barnard, owner of Cypress Acres Nursery, covered his plants with frost cloth. He said the fluctuation between warm and cold weather can zap new growth on plants.

"This type of weather now, a good cold snap can really put a hurting on you," he said.

The National Weather Service was forecasting another night of cold weather, with temperatures expected in the 35 to 38 degree range for Tuesday night.

While citrus farmers were relieved after their Monday night vigil, Dade City residents without heat still woke up Tuesday morning to freezing temperatures.

Aurora Gomez kept her three children and husband warm by leaving two gas stovetop burners on all night in her mobile home. After waking up at 4 a.m. to get ready for work at a meat processing plant, she put extra jackets and coats on her sleepy children.

Holy Ground Homeless Shelter, at Denton Avenue and U.S. 19 in Hudson, prepared for another busy night Tuesday.

"We're out getting more provisions because there is more cold to come," said Lisa Barabas-Henry, who runs the shelter.

Photographer Julia Kumari Drapkin contributed to this report. Gina Pace can be reached at (352) 521-6518 or

[Last modified January 30, 2007, 23:30:39]

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