New Freeze Looms for Gulf Coast Growers

Thursday, January 7, 2010 - 3:03pm

The latest arctic outbreak now following the cross-country snowstorm will bring a new risk of a damaging freeze from South Texas to Louisiana to the Florida Peninsula beginning this weekend.

The upcoming outbreak will hit in southern Texas first Friday night, then spread eastward across the Gulf Coast into Florida later in the weekend.

Temperatures are forecast to dip into the upper 20s in South Texas Friday night and Saturday night for a few hours. At this level, citrus would be reasonably safe, but other fruits and vegetables would be at risk.

Temperatures could drop into the lower 20s for a number of hours Friday night and Saturday night in southern Louisiana, where approximately 40 percent of the U.S. sugarcane crop is located.

This magnitude of cold could cause some damage to Louisiana's 2009-2010 sweet cash crop. Part of this year's crop has not yet been harvested. Officials have recently stated that saturated fields from record rainfall late this autumn have slowed the harvest.

Florida fruit and vegetable producers and workers were busy much of this week harvesting and taking preventive measures. After a break in the severe cold into the first part of the weekend, a new wave of freezing temperatures will begin.

A storm system could trek across Florida this weekend prior to the arrival of the new arctic blast. If fresh cold air catches up to the tail end of the storm, snow could fall on parts of the peninsula.

Cloud cover with the storm Saturday night could keep temperatures from dropping any lower than the upper 20s to the lower 30s.

Once that storm departs, clear skies would then allow the temperature to plummet well into the 20s in some areas Sunday night.

At this point, meteorologists expect temperatures to average 1 to 3 degrees lower with this new outbreak, compared to earlier this week.

Blanketing cloud cover may come the rescue in some areas later Monday night.