(Sept. 1) Tropical Depression Ernesto’s downgraded winds and rain didn’t damage any Florida produce growing operations Aug. 30 when it slowly rolled across the peninsula.

The season’s fifth named system, which had become stronger in the Caribbean as a hurricane, soon lost strength and was downsized to a tropical depression with 35 mph maximum sustained winds.

Forecasters warned the storm would strike land west of Homestead, Fla., and gain strength as it ran through the center of the state.

“It turned into more of a tropical wave,” said Quentin Roe, co-owner and vice president of fresh operations for central Florida citrus grower and packer William G. Roe & Sons Inc., Winter Haven, Fla.

The rain, however, could help citrus growers catch up on what has been an abnormally drier than normal summer, Roe said.

Mike Stuart, president of Maitland-based Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, said his organization didn’t receive any reports of damage.

Doug Bournique, executive vice president of the Indian River Citrus League, Vero Beach, Fla., said the region dodged the bullet.

“We really didn’t have any high winds at all,” he said.

Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals Inc., Homestead, Fla., said the storm didn’t cause any damage to Brooks’ SlimCado avocados, which were in the peak of their production in late August.

Because drivers didn’t want to enter a hurricane area, the only storm effects Brooks felt, Ostlund said, was a delay in securing trucks. Brooks also experienced a small delay in receiving Central American tropicals from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., after port officials stopped operations at 3 p.m. on Aug. 29.

Officials, however, soon reopened the port the next morning.