Cold could bring a record for April


Published: Tuesday, April 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 31, 2003 at 9:46 p.m.
April Fools' Day conspired with the weather to bring North Central Florida residents one more day of winter. Record cold temperatures were expected this morning.
The National Weather Service issued a freeze warning Monday for interior counties in North Central Florida. Forecasters expect a low of 30 degrees in Gainesville, which could be the coldest April temperature on record, depending on who you talk to.
The record low for all of April is 32 degrees, set on April 17, 1962, said Scott Carroll, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Jacksonville. But the Weather Channel's Web site lists a temperature of 29 degrees, set on April 5, 1987, as the lowest April temperature.
The average date of the last freeze in Gainesville is Feb. 28, Carroll said.
But one local grower said a late-season freeze is par for the course. "Every year before Easter, there will be a cold front and freeze," said Jenny Franklin, owner of High Springs Orchard and Nursery. Franklin grows plums, peaches, pears and persimmons.
But while Franklin expected the freeze, she said warm weather earlier this spring has put her crops at risk. "I don't like the warm weather in February and March because everything starts to bloom and set early, and now here comes the freeze," she said.
Roy Brown, owner of Brown's Farms in Orange Heights, said his strawberries will probably make it through the freeze, but he's worried about his squash, beans and peas. "Strawberries are cool-season crops, but the others are warm-season crops," Brown said.
Brown, who has been fighting heavy rain this spring, said he hopes forecasters are wrong.
"I'm not going to do anything," Brown said. "We've been fighting the weather this spring and if it gets me this time, I'll just take the bullet."
But the one thing people may wish the freeze would kill- mosquitoes- will probably live, said a University of Florida professor.
"They'll just go to sleep for a little while and wake up and come back again," said Jerry Butler, a professor of medical and veterinary entomology at UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
And when they wake up, it will probably feel like spring again.
High temperatures today are expected to reach 70 degrees, with lows in the mid-40s tonight, Carroll said. Highs will return to the 80s with lows in the 50s on Thursday.
Kathy Ciotola can be reached at 338-3109 or ciotolk@gvillesun.com.

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