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Central Florida Citrus Growers Brace For Cold Snap

File photo: Florida navel orange tree coated in ice
File photo: Florida navel orange tree coated in ice

As potentially freezing temperatures move in to Central Florida, forecasters are giving their usual cold-weather advice: the three P’s – people, pets, and plants – should be sheltered.

Orlando’s Coalition for the Homeless is declaring “Cold Nights,” meaning people who need shelter will get it, regardless of space.

And across the area, residents are letting in the family dog or cat and covering the plants.

For citrus growers, though, just draping a tarp over the trees won’t do, says Richard Marshall of Marshall Groves in Deland.

In freezing weather, Marshall explains, he taps the warm water of the Floridan aquifer, which pumps through the three sprinklers he has for each tree, "and coats all the interior branches, and stems, and the trunk...such that this 72-degree water is always sliding down the tree trunk, all night long."

The water does eventually freeze, says Marshall, but 32-degree ice protects the trees and fruit from the lasting damage that begins just below the freezing point.

Marshall says he uses as little water as possible, and minimal power from a generator to pump it from his well to his 1,000 trees. He adds that he and his wife Claudia will spend hours before a cold snap inspecting each of the 3,000 sprinklers scattered across the grove, one by one.

Nicole came to Central Florida to attend Rollins College and started working for Orlando’s ABC News Radio affiliate shortly after graduation. She joined WMFE in 2010. As a field reporter, news anchor and radio show host in the City Beautiful, she has covered everything from local arts to national elections, from extraordinary hurricanes to historic space flights, from the people and procedures of Florida’s justice system to the changing face of the state’s economy. When local issues have received international attention, Nicole has reported worldwide for TV news outlets such as CNN, HLN, ABC, Fox News Channel, and BBC News 24.

When she’s off duty, Nicole can often be found performing with one of Central Florida’s many theatre companies, or taking in local arts, culture and music.