More cool weather forecast for region

Published: Thursday, January 20, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 at 10:48 p.m.
January's seesaw weather will continue to ride the low, more seasonal side of the cycle for the foreseeable future - with lows in the middle to upper 30s and highs in the low to mid 60s.
But the high side of the ride - a nearly two-week run of high temperatures near 80 - provided some area farmers with unusual harvesting opportunities.
"It's very unusual for us to still be cutting greens," said Curtis Davis, co-owner of Davis Brothers Farms near Alachua.
"People are surprised that we have strawberries now," said Lola Brown of Brown's Farm, a roadside operation along State Road 26 between Orange Heights and Melrose.
Davis said the warm weather earlier this month helped spur new growth on the mustard greens that were turned brown by frost in December. And the last week of near-freezing mornings has had little impact on the mustard and collard greens they sell to such markets as Ward's in Gainesville, the Hitchcock's Supermarket chain in neighboring communities and to roadside produce vendors.
"Normally this time of year, when the greens turn brown, they wouldn't have come back," Davis said.
Brown said they've been picking strawberries for several days. It's a little unusual to have berries to sell in January, she said, but not unheard of.
"That nice weather made them come on and we had more than we normally would have," Brown said. She said the last week of cooler weather hasn't hurt their strawberries, greens, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. But "it has caused us a lot of work covering them and icing them," she said.
On nights when a freeze is predicted, Brown said, they irrigate their crops to cover them in a protective ice "igloo" that prevents them from getting colder than 32 degrees.
They shouldn't have to take such precautions for at least the next few days.
"You're looking at somewhat more seasonal weather at least through Tuesday," said Peter Keegan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jacksonville.
He said there is a chance of scattered frost this morning in some areas. But after that, morning lows are expected to be in the upper 30s with little chance of a freeze soon.
Nor is anything on the horizon like the lengthy warm spell that began the first week of January, when for days temperatures ranged 9 to 17 degrees above normal. The last four days, Keegan said, North Central Florida has seen temperatures ranging from 2 to 12 degrees below normal.
Looking ahead, he said, "the weather will not be changing that much. You'll have somewhat more seasonably cool nights and close to seasonal days."
That means lows in the upper 30s to near 40 at night through Tuesday, and highs in the mid to upper 60s during the day. It'll be mostly dry, with the best chance of rain at 30 percent for Saturday, Keegan said.
Also not in the region's future is a visit by the "Alberta Clipper," a blast of frigid Canadian air that now is over the Great Lakes region. Keegan said it may dip into northern Alabama and Georgia, but isn't expected to reach Florida.
Davis said the seesaw weather greened up pasture grass for his cattle for a few days before recent frosts turned it brown again.
"It was nice to have a little extra feed for them," he said.

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