South Dade Frozen Solid: Damage Unknown

Temperatures last night sunk below freezing in South Miami-Dade, potentially damaging crops in the already beleaguered Redland area, which provides much of the nation's winter tomato crop.

The exact nature of the damage won't be known for a couple days. Many farms ran sprinklers all night to obviate the damage as the temperature sunk below freezing in some places. Wind was also strong, which can add to the danger for edible plants.

Sue Casey, owner of Casey Farms near Homestead, put a blanket on top of a tarp over some firebush in a truck. When she walked from her house this morning, it was frozen solid. "Hard as a rock," she says.

Casey's most fragile plants, mostly native and Cuban palms, were well protected, she says. Water was turned off for several days in advance of the cold so that nothing would rot. She plans to turn it back on tonight -- and to bring inside her livestock including tortoises and an 18-year-old miniature pig named Candy Cane Casey.

Bees in the area probably stayed safe by heading for hives, where honey acts as natural insulation.

Nearby, at Paradise Farms, edible flowers like wild petunia and nasturtium were watered and covered up, says Meg Schaltz, the accounting person. Along with lettuce, that is the most vulnerable stuff, and everything seemed okay, she added. Vegetables like radish, carrots, onions were generally underground, so everything should be okay. "We got through last night with flying colors," says Schatz.

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