Break out the sweaters: Wind chill advisory, freeze warning issued for Southwest Florida

Winter weather has local growers looking for cover.

The National Weather Service in Miami expects the cold nights — with temperatures dipping into the 30s throughout much of Collier County — to continue through the week.

The chilly temperatures forced the agency to issue a freeze warning for inland Collier County until 9 a.m. and a wind chill advisory until 10 a.m. today.

The chance of a freeze has local farmers concerned about whether the cold temperatures will affect this year’s crop.

Nick Batty, owner of Inoyni Farms in Collier County, said he began covering up his sensitive crops — like eggplant and squash — Saturday evening to protect them from the cold. But with temperatures dropping to about 39 degrees over the night, Batty said he wasn’t immediately concerned about his crops.

“I’m not really worried about the weather tonight,” Batty said Sunday afternoon. “It happens every year, it’s fairly regular.”

But Chuck Caracozza, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami, said this year has been colder than previous years.

“We’re in an El Niño pattern, which typically favors colder and wetter weather here in the winter months,” he said.

The cold weather isn’t all bad, said David Burd, owner of Friendly Burd Tree Service in Naples. While sensitive crops are at risk during cold weather, as long as Southwest Florida doesn’t experience a hard freeze, some crops, like citrus, could benefit from the chilly temperatures.

“It sweetens the citrus,” he said. “Some trees need this cold to bring them to flower.”

Citrus growers are still diligently watching the weather this week, said Andrew Meadows, director of communications for Florida Citrus Mutual.

Meadows said Sunday that field reports show area growers made it through Saturday night’s cold weather without damage.

“We didn’t reach (below freezing) last night and we don’t expect to reach it tonight,” he said Sunday. “But nothing is iron clad.”

Citrus is at risk when temperatures dip to 28 degrees or colder for more than four hours, said Ron Hamel, executive vice president of Gulf Citrus Growers Association.

Hamel said growers were out in the groves over the weekend to make sure the trees were protected from any frost.

There won’t be a reprieve from the cold any time soon, though. A second cold front is expected to move in this week, Caracozza said.

“It’s not just one front and the cold air staying in place,” he said. “It’s going to be prolonged because we’re expecting one or two more cold fronts to move through.”

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Connect with Naples reporter Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster at www.naplesnews.com/staff/jenna-buzzacco

Posted earlier:

Mid to high level clouds worked in late last night and that helped hold temperatures above the freezing mark across much of Southwest Florida.

Clouds prevent some of the daytime heating from escaping back to space, and for us, that was good news as a heavy frost or freeze was not realized.

Temperatures this morning start off in the mid to upper 30s inland and near 40 degrees along the urban corridor and coastal communities.

Check out NBC-2’s Report

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