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Freeze disrupts produce
Berries, other crops affected by weather
Strawberry Outage 2 es
With an empty space for strawberries in the foreground, store manager Janice Hargraves straightens up the neighboring berries and grapes Wednesday afternoon at Publix in Cumming. - photo by Emily Saunders
From gardens to grocery stores, the swath of frigid air that is parked over the Southeast is being felt indoors as well outdoors.

The freeze has affected the supply of fresh strawberries at local Publix stores and Georgia-grown vegetables aren’t faring much better.

“We haven’t had a frost like this in years,” said Chuck Cornwell, Forsyth County Extension master gardener. “Usually, you get it for a couple of days, but this has been going on for like a week.”

The forecast from the National Weather Service was calling for snow to begin falling late Thursday afternoon into the evening, with an overnight low of about 21 degrees and wind gusts up to 25 mph.

While today is supposed to be sunny, the high isn’t expected to top 30, meaning any snowfall is unlikely to melt. And high temperatures may not get above freezing until Monday.

“Just about everything will be having a problem right now,” Cornwell said.

Collard greens and other Georgia vegetables typical for this time of year won’t likely make it through the freeze.

“They’ll be growing, and all of a sudden —boom. They get hit,” he said.

For local growers who haven’t taken measures to beat the freeze, it’s already too late.

“The frost has hit pretty hard now, so whatever you’ve got, you’ve got,” he said.

Charles Samples, who helps manage the Forsyth County Farmers Market, said “the cold weather and rain messed up all the turnips.”

“I’ll usually start some plants in the greenhouse, but it will probably be the last of the month before I start that,” he said.

It appears Publix customers have been frozen out of this week’s sale on strawberries.

The Florida-based grocery chain buys its strawberries from farmers in the Sunshine State, but freezing temperatures have stymied supplies.

“We are rationing our supply of strawberries to all of our different stores,” said Publix spokeswoman Brenda Reid. “We’ve withheld the orders that have been placed until we can re-sort what was going to be delivered to each of the stores.”

Publix started seeing dwindling supplies Tuesday, but so far Kroger grocery stores haven’t had a problem.

“I’m not aware of situations that we’ve been unable to fulfill deliveries to our stores,” said spokesman Glynn Jenkins. “But we’ll continue, certainly, to monitor that situation very carefully.”

Reid said its peak strawberry season in Florida.

“Normally, if there’s a problem, we will start checking around the world,” Reid said. “California will be the first stop ... because they’re considerably closer.”

Partial orders of strawberries were expected to be shipped to stores by Thursday. But with the sale price of two 16-ounce packages for $5, supplies could run out quickly.

Florida farmers are trying to fight off the freezing temperatures using water. Reid said Publix is in a “wait-and-see mode to see how long this weather is going to hold up.”

“Oranges, I understand are [also] going to be impacted, but we haven’t received word yet,” she said. “We are checking on what’s happening with orange juice.”

Reid said it could be a few more days before a clear picture emerges.

“The full harvest did not come in,” she said. “For now we have what we have and the question is whatever happens with the weather right now.”