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Tampa Bay Polar Vortex Cold Snap Weather: Why you should care if Tampa Bay area strawberries freeze tonight

1:50 PM, Jan 7, 2014   |    comments
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Video: Strawberry farmers brace for another chilly night

Tampa Bay Area Radar
Tampa Bay Radar
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Dover, Florida -- Farmers in the Tampa Bay area will spend another nervous night watching thermometers after a close call Tuesday morning.

Many growers skipped sleep Monday night to protect their crops from the cold and they'll be back on alert Tuesday night.

Full Weather Coverage Link: Tampa Bay Weather

But there are 25 billion reasons you should be anxious right along with them.

Even if you never get your hands dirty, what happens out on the frosty farms of eastern Hillsborough County and other farming communities definitely matters to you.

Look around your town and it turns out you'll see plenty of people who would be out of a job if it weren't for little red strawberries and other crops growing around Tampa Bay. One out of about every five jobs in Hillsborough County is created by agriculture, according to this University of Florida data.

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'Polar Vortex' causes travel delays, cancellations at TIA
Freezing temps prompt danger warnings across U.S.

In other Bay area counties, it ranges from one-in-six jobs, to one-in-three in Polk County.

Without plants shooting up from fields, unemployment would shoot up. And if you gather up all of the stuff grown each year in the Bay area counties from Citrus south to Sarasota, including Polk, it's worth $25 billion.

Just how much is that, really?

Look at it this way. There are about 100 countries around the world whose entire economies are worth less than $25 billion.

These are some powerful little plants.

The crops in places like Dover, Seffner, and Plant City in eastern Hillsborough County seemed to come through Monday night with no damage.

Parkesdale Farms' Matt Parke says his fields likely dipped one degree below freezing, but steady winds kept frost from forming.

Farmers will be watching their fields again Tuesday night.

If damaging frost starts to form, they're ready to turn on sprinklers to warm and protect strawberries, blueberries, and other valuable crops if the air dips too close to freezing.

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