Unusually cold temperatures affect farms, wildlife

A field at Dewar Nurseries in Apopka, Florida is covered in ice Sunday, Jan. 10, 2010 as a deep freeze continues throughout Central Florida. The owners of the nursery covered their plants in ice to protect them from the unusually cold temperatures.

AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Red Huber
Published: Monday, January 11, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 11, 2010 at 1:20 a.m.

MIAMI — About 100,000 tropical fish being raised on a fish farm in South Florida couldn't bear the cold temperatures Sunday.

Michael Breen, 43, owns Breen Acres Aquatics in the small town of Loxahatchee Groves. He said temperatures dropped below 30 degrees overnight, leaving ice on his 76 ponds.

The ponds should be green because of algae bloom that feeds baby fish, he said.

"But all the ponds are crystal clear and fish are laying on the bottom. What we see on the surface died two days ago," he said, referring to the dead fish found floating Sunday morning.

Breen estimated he lost $535,000 in business because of the cold.

The unusually low temperatures proved also to be a challenge for the region's wildlife. Large, green iguanas became catatonic in the cold and fell from trees.

Monkey Jungle closed early Saturday. For the first time in at least 30 years, Miami Metrozoo shut its doors because it was too cold.

Farther north, more than 160 cold-stunned turtles were found floating in a lagoon near Titusville. More than 200 manatees were swimming in heated water outside a Tampa Bay power plant.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service in Miami was investigating reports of snow flurries mixed in with rain from Saturday afternoon. Snow flurries were spotted farther north, including at the Walt Disney World Half Marathon where Orlando residents were asked to send their snow pictures to local media.

More cold weather was in store for Sunday and Monday.

Breen said his town, which raises everything from tropical birds and fish to organic produce and palm trees, was holding on to the little that was left from the cold.

"Everybody is just wiped out. It's that bad," he said.

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