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Helicopters Do Frost Flights To Protect Florida Crops

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Alex DeMetrick 370x278 Alex DeMetrick
Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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FREDERICK COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — The cold that’s plunged Maryland into a deep freeze extends deep into the south.  That’s placed Florida crops in jeopardy.

As Alex DeMetrick reports, it’s forcing growers there to do what Maryland does when frost threatens: attack it from above.

In Maryland, a cold snap in spring is a big worry, especially as plants start budding out.

Helicopters spent the night flying over Linganore Vineyards in Frederick County a few years ago.  As the rotors spin, they pull down warmer air from above to counter colder air on the ground.

“If you’re down more than 10 minutes, the frost could damage the buds,” said Neal Lanning, Advanced Helicopter Concepts.

Lanning does frost flights throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

“Flew from about midnight to 8:15 in the morning. There were seven helicopters on that project , so it gets to be crazy at times,” said Lanning.

Tuesday night in Florida, a lot more helicopters will be flying over fields of produce and grain.

Unlike oranges, where ice is used to protect juice, sweet corn and strawberries need warmer air.

“I’ve been told if we don’t stay on it, they coud lose as much as 80 percent of the crop in one night,” said Lanning.

And what’s worked in Maryland, might just fly in Florida.

Using helicopters to beat the cold can cost a grower anywhere from $350 an hour to $1,000 per chopper.

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