On Christmas Day, there wasn’t a sign of snow in Southwest Florida. In fact, the near 80-degree temperatures we enjoyed that day made us the envy of the country, a position in which we found ourselves quite often during the last month of 2013. We do enjoy a mild climate here, but the weather on Christmas Day hasn’t always been as nice as it was this year. The only snow that I’ve seen fall in Punta Gorda occurred just after sunset on Christmas Eve in 1989. Christmas Day that year was brutally cold, with temperatures in Charlotte County in the low to mid-20s. Many Florida cities recorded temperatures 10 to 15 degrees below their previous all-time record lows for that date, and the demand for electricity soared so high that rolling blackouts were instituted in some areas as the power grid became overwhelmed. Not the sort of crisis we expect in Florida.
A few days later I ventured up the Peace River and was astounded by the huge rafts of dead, bloated fish which were floating in the river bends after succumbing to the cold weather. The number of carcasses was uncountable and included an amazing number of large adult tarpon and big snook. Prior to seeing the sad results of that bout of frigid weather, I’d never realized just how many big tarpon can spend the winter in the river. Since an adult tarpon can be more than 20 years old, it’s likely that the population of river fish has only now recovered from that remarkable cold snap.
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