Florida Citrus Industry Dodges Bullet With Hurricane Nicole

Josh McGillhurricane

When Hurricane Nicole formed off Florida’s east coast, citrus growers held their collective breath after the beating they took in late September from Hurricane Ian. Nicole made landfall just south of Vero Beach on Nov. 10.

Hurricane Nicole
Photo by Tonya Weeks, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

Winds near hurricane strength were recorded at multiple weather stations as Nicole came ashore, including 75 miles per hour (mph) in Port St. John and 72 mph in Melbourne. Inland, a wind gust of 66 mph was recorded in Orlando. The highest wind gust, 100 mph, was recorded atop launchpad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center.

The storm made landfall in the state’s main grapefruit-growing region, but early reports indicate damage is minimal. Doug Bournique, executive director of the Indian River Citrus League, reported minor fruit losses from grower members of the association. However, he noted that damage assessments are ongoing.

Florida Citrus Mutual also has been surveying growers for damage reports. It, too, is reporting minimal fruit losses in the Indian River area. Mutual also noted some fruit loss in more interior areas that were impacted by Hurricane Ian. Nicole aggravated the stress to those trees that had been battered by Ian.

“There is some additional green fruit on the ground, especially in earlies (early-season orange) blocks, but not a tremendous amount,” said Ray Royce, executive director of Highlands County Citrus Growers Association. “There was not much left in those blocks to start with” following Hurricane Ian. He had not heard of many Valencia blocks having much additional fruit drop. “I have not heard of any additional tree or infrastructure damage,” he added.

“Growers are reporting no significant amounts of excess damage. This was very similar to a summer rainstorm for our area,” said Emma Keller, executive director of the Peace River Valley Citrus Growers Association. “I have not heard of any excess flooding or major tree damage. As with any weather event, we are sure some producers received more rain/wind than others. We are extremely happy to know this did not add any extra major damage after Hurricane Ian.”

Citrus growers in North Florida and South Georgia also made it through Nicole without much damage to report and were quickly back to work in groves after the storm passed.

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Frank Giles


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