MIAMI -- Temperatures dipped to 16 degrees Friday as Florida's worst cold spell in 11 years slid into its third week and farmers looked at extensive damage to sugarcane, tomatoes and other crops.
U.S. Sugar Corp. said many of its 420,000 acres of sugar cane in Palm Beach and Hendry counties may be lost.
"We'll be looking at significant damage," spokeswoman Judy Sanchez said.
The multimillion-dollar citrus industry has fared better, said Mike Carlton with Florida Citrus Mutual. Some growers actually sprayed their citrus crops with water to freeze them to protect them from more damaging cold air.
Thursday was the coldest night of the winter so far in Florida and the Panhandle recorded its coldest December in a decade. The lowest temperature was 16 degrees in Brooksville, 50 miles north of Tampa.
"The records were not only broken, they were shattered," said National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Lushine in Miami, adding that warmer weather is expected this weekend.
Farmers in southwest Florida, the state's largest tomato growing region, reported extensive damage.
"We're hopeful that we haven't lost the entire crop," said Pat Cockrell, the agricultural policy director for the Florida Farm Bureau, a farm advocacy group.
Tomato farmers in Miami-Dade County and near West Palm Beach reported little or no damage, but the Florida Tomato Committee warned prices may go up slightly over the next two months because of the decreased supply.
Officials said the extent of the damage would be known within weeks.
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