The delightful warmth that has graced Florida during December has taken a little vacation as arctic air and a freeze drive southward into the middle of the week.
The weather pattern will deliver the coldest air of the season so far to Florida and much of the South.
Temperatures are forecast to dip to near or below the freezing mark (32 degrees Fahrenheit) in some growing areas as the cold wave bottoms out.
The lowest temperatures are expected later tonight into Wednesday morning, when the wind is likely to drop off under clear skies in very dry air.
The air will get cold enough at night to put tender fruits and vegetables at risk as far south as the central counties of the Peninsula.
Temperatures dipping to 32 degrees for a few hours are possible just north and west of Lake Okeechobee. In the northern counties of the state, temperatures will dip well down into the 20s for a number of hours.
Preventative measures, such as spraying water over the fields, smudge pots or wind machines will be necessary to minimize the damage.
Significant damage to the citrus crop ranging from oranges to grapefruit is not expected, since most of these groves are much farther south compared to decades ago.
Interestingly, a few hours of temperatures around the freezing mark generally improves the citrus crop by boosting sugar levels in the fruit. The majority of the oranges in Florida are used by juicers.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Florida's orange crop this season is expected to be nearly 5 percent larger than the 2010-2011 season.
Ample rain over the summer was a major contributor to the boost in yields. For example around Orlando, nearly 29 inches of rain fell from June 15 to September 15, compared to a normal of around 22 inches.
The temperature peaked int the chilly 40s today around Orlando, Disney World and other theme parks.
The good news is that temperatures will trend upward spanning the second half of the week.
Temperatures averaged between 2 and 4 degrees above normal during the month of December across the Sunshine State.
Much of Florida also experienced below normal precipitation.
Both are trademarks of a La Nina winter in Florida.
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