updated 1/24/2005 11:50:24 AM ET 2005-01-24T16:50:24

Freezing temperatures extended into central Florida early Monday as residents across the state headed off to work and school on one of the coldest mornings of the winter.

Freezing temperatures registered as far south as the central Florida city of Ocala, which recorded a low of 25 degrees, and Tampa was stuck at around 32 for three hours. Marathon in the Florida Keys reported a low of 49 — with a wind chill of 37.

The cold snap had worried farmers, but the National Weather Service said temperatures did not fall below 30 in the critical areas.

“In terms of widespread concerns, we got lucky,” said Barry Goldsmith, a National Weather Service meteorologist in the Tampa Bay suburb of Ruskin. “Temperatures on their own did not fall below 30 degrees in the critical areas.”

Reggie Brown, manager of the trade group Florida Tomatoes called it “a very near miss.” Lows at or near freezing lasted for four hours in the coldest of the big production areas near Immokalee, roughly halfway between Miami and Tampa.

On guard for Monday night
Readings at or near freezing lasted for four hours in the coldest of the big production areas, roughly halfway between Miami and Tampa. “I doubt we had any frost,” Brown said. “Plants don’t like it but we probably didn’t hurt anything other than some blow-down.”

Casey Pace, a spokesman for Florida Citrus Mutual, told the St. Petersburg Times that farmers would irrigate crops with warm water and hope for the best. “(This) morning, growers will slice open some fruit and see if there was some freezing,” Pace said Sunday afternoon.   Barry Goldsmith, National Weather Service meteorologist in the Tampa Bay suburb of Ruskin, said Monday that temperatures did not fall below 30 degrees in the critical areas.

“In terms of widespread concerns, we got lucky,” he said. But he added that growers would have to be on guard again Monday night.

As residents woke up to chilly homes Monday, Progress Energy said it was expecting record energy demand in the morning.

High temperatures for Monday were forecast to be in the lower 50s in north Florida, the mid-50s in the central part of the state, and the lower to mid-60s in southern Florida and the Keys.

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