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Cold snap hits Manatee County crops

MANATEE -- It was a long night for farmers and growers.

Many worked through the night to ward off freeze damage.

This morning, there were reports of damage to the tomato crop.

But apparently, citrus in most areas fared well.

At SMR Farms in Lakewood Ranch, there was some freeze damage.

But according to Steven John, citrus production manager, the oranges weren’t so badly damaged that they cannot be used for juices.

“We had some pretty cold temperature,” said John. “We fared pretty well. We had some areas that were under 28 degrees.”

Temperatures reached a low of 33 at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport early this morning, according to Colleen Rhea, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, with a hard freeze warning in place that expired at 9 a.m.

Typically, temperatures are lower further inland.

At O’Brien Family Farms in East Manatee, workers were trying to safeguard the strawberry crop.

Most of their strawberries made it through the cold with a combination of using frost blankets and freezing the berries.

“We froze the berries,” said Tom O’Brien, owner of O’Brien Family Farm, adding that they maintained the plants at 28 degrees last night as temperatures fell to near freezing points.

As with the oranges, the result of the cold snap will be sweeter fruit.

“The strawberries will be bigger and sweeter,” O’Brien said.

For the rest of the day highs are expected to be in upper the 50s near the cost and around 60 inland, according to Rhea. Tonight, mostly clear to partly cloudy skies skies are forecats with areas of frost after midnight.

Lows will hover around the lower 40s near the cost and upper 20s inland with light winds.

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