Warmer temperatures expected by week’s end
Southwest Florida’s recent cold spell has reset many of the local temperature records, but forecasters estimate the weather will start returning to normal this week.
Fort Myers set a new record at 31 degrees Monday morning and Punta Gorda also set a new record at 28 degrees, explained Rick Davis, a forecaster from the National Weather Service in Ruskin, Fla.
Although the temperature stayed between 36 and 38 degrees Monday night, later today it will climb back up to the lower 60s, he said.
“The next couple of days should be back up,” said Davis.
By Thursday afternoon the temperature should be back on par with this time of year, which is typically a high of 70 and a low of 50.
“We will still run slightly below normal, but not like the record temps we’ve seen,” he said.
Forecasters are anticipating a slow warming and moderating trend this week. The arctic high pressure system that has been dominating the country is beginning to weaken and winds from the northeast will bring moisture and warmth from the Atlantic Ocean.
The sun will also begin warming local air masses, he said.
Farmers throughout the state rushed all week to harvest as many crops as possible before they were hit by the chilling temperature. Damage to fruit occurs when temperatures reach 28 degrees or lower for more than four hours.
The Florida Citrus Mutual released a statement Monday stating that the state’s $9 billion citrus crop was affected by the record temperatures, but that farmers are still assessing the damage.
“The reports we are getting tell us there is frozen fruit as well as twig and leaf damage out there. Now it may be days or weeks until we figure out whether there is long-term tree damage,” said Florida Citrus Mutual CEO Michael Sparks.
Gov. Charlie Crist issued an executive order earlier last week lifting restrictions for commercial vehicles transporting crops in an attempt to expedite the shipping process. It was signed Jan. 5 and remains in effect for 14 days, according to a release from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.