Helping Generations Cope with Freezes

Ernie Neff freeze, Weather

Chris Oswalt

Winter Weather Watch is a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension program that has helped generations of Florida citrus growers be prepared for freezes.

“Back in the ’60s, we didn’t have the Internet. We had rotary dial phones,” says multi-county citrus Extension agent Chris Oswalt, who discusses the history and workings of Winter Weather Watch, which began in the 1960s. He says Extension agents received the information about cold weather via teletype machines. The agents would record the information, and growers who subscribed to the service called in for the recordings.

Oswalt says Winter Weather Watch information is based on data provided by the National Weather Service. It is needed by agriculturists because television weather reports focus primarily on urban areas. A retired meteorologist helps tailor the National Weather Service data for citrus growers.

Winter Weather Watch includes information about the type of freeze that is expected and provides information to help growers make decisions about using freeze protection in their groves.

Florida citrus has not experienced an industry-wide freeze with heavy damage in recent years. In the 1980s, though, the industry had three freezes that killed a large proportion of the industry’s trees.

Oswalt’s complete discussion about Winter Weather Watch can be heard in the current episode of the All in for Citrus podcast. Listen to the full podcast here.

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large