Here in Florida, when the temperature dips below 40, it’s news. When it reaches freezing, it’s headline news, and when it reaches freezing 5 nights in a row, it’s all anyone here talks about. We Floridians tend to name our freezes. Oh, not officially, but if you mention certain freezes by name, those who were here when it happened know what you’re talking about.
There are a few that stand out in my memory. There was The Year It Snowed In Miami. Really. That’s what we call it. It was 1977, and flurries fell in Homestead, near Miami. It was the area’s first and only ever recorded snowfall. There was actual accumulation in Central and North Florida. Then there’s the Back-to-Back Freezes of ’84 & ’85. One freeze was in December 1984; the other in January 1985. They weren’t among our worst ever freezes, but two freezes in one winter always makes news.
Probably the most famous recent freeze is what’s known to locals as The Christmas Freeze (1989). The utility companies couldn’t handle the increased demand for heating, and there were rolling blackouts. Roads iced over and forced holiday travelers to stop. Motels were full, and there were stories of hotel and motel managers letting stranded travelers crash in their lobbies. The rolling power outages caused many a Christmas dinner to be ruined. Some people pulled their hams or turkeys out of the oven and put them on the grill. Others found restaurants that had power. Delivery pizza or takeout Chinese food were not uncommon Christmas dinners that year. We were lucky in that we didn’t lose power, but my cousin in another city did. My uncle, her father, was one of the stranded travelers. He was coming to Florida to visit her family for Christmas, but had to stop and stay in a hotel lobby. He finally made it to her house late Christmas day, and they sent out for a Christmas pizza. Her turkey was ruined.
I don’t know what this current freeze will be called, but I suspect the length will figure in the name. Maybe The Long Freeze. Or The New Year Freeze. We’ve had 5 nights in a row with temperatures below freezing, and 6 days in which we didn’t reach 60.
Now I know some people will laugh at that, but it’s no laughing matter really. We don’t have what it takes for temperatures this low. We don’t have the right winter clothes, coats, gloves, hats, socks, or blankets. We aren’t equipped for cold that lasts more than a day or two. Our power companies can’t handle the demand. Our home heating units can’t work hard enough to warm up the house, so we’re cold even inside our homes. Our houses are built to keep heat out, not in. Very few of us have fireplaces. Many people have space heaters, but those who don’t are out of luck. Every store that carries them is sold out. Our cold is a bone chilling cold. It looks dry outside, but right now the temperature is 31 degrees, with 60% humidity. That same humidity that suffocates us in the summer, makes cold feel colder in winter.
As much as 70% of the domestically grown produce this time of year comes from Florida. If you buy produce that says “Product of USA” in winter, chances are it came from Florida. The verdict isn’t in on how the crops fared in this freeze, but don’t be surprised if fresh produce prices skyrocket soon. Expect orange juice prices to go up. And if you will get or give roses for Valentine’s Day, this freeze will affect the price. The ferns that come with roses are delicate, and can’t handle these temperatures. The supply of ferns that haven’t been damaged in the freeze is going to be limited.
So how is our family handling this cold weather? Mostly by staying indoors. Dennis has gone outside each morning to check for ice. He found some in a water pan that filled up with rain on New Year’s Day. The ice has been about 1/2 inch thick — highly unusual. When ice is formed, it’s usually just a thin sheet. Each morning he goes out to get the ice, then drops it so he can watch it break like a sheet of glass.
In the background you can see my vegetable garden covered with sheets. I haven’t checked it in the last 3 days because I’m pretty sure all is lost. I don’t want to see all my wilted plants. Maybe the broccoli survived, but that’s probably all that did. Sheets. That’s what we do when it gets cold. We cover our plants with sheets. Drive around any neighborhood and you’ll see sheets in nearly every yard, covering plants and bushes. Everyone has old sheets that have become their “plant sheets”. Here’s my rosebush. I think it’s doing okay.
And finally, we get to have a lot of soup and hot chocolate. This week I’ve made beef stew, vegetable beef barley soup, chili, hamburger soup, white bean chicken chili, and potato soup. That’s probably as much soup as I normally make the entire winter. It’s usually not cold enough to have soup or chili more than a few times each year. We’ve been enjoying hot chocolate. Dennis has always liked the packaged stuff, while I’ve always preferred the kind made with cocoa powder (Bill could care less, and would rather have coffee). This year, after tasting the good stuff, Dennis decided he likes it better. I’ve been making it every day. It’s probably the only thing I’ll miss when the weather warms up.
I’m so ready for this cold snap to end. I live in Florida in part because I hate cold weather. Really hate it. Really, really hate it. You know how some people get cranky when it’s hot outside? I’m just the opposite. Cold makes me cranky. I don’t want to cuddle or snuggle. I just want to complain about the cold and curl up into a ball until it’s over. If I’m not warm, I’m not happy. I expect to be happy again by Thursday, when this crazy cold weather will finally come to an end. Next Thursday’s high is predicted to be 72, and the low only 51. Now that’s more like it.