Fruit Growers in the Northeast Bracing for Freeze Tonight

In the previous blog post on the Weather Notebook, I mentioned how the Great March Heat Wave of 2012 was over….boy, it sure is! It was a rude smack in the face today with our high temperature actually below average. First time that’s happened in over two weeks. For many of us highs only got up in the low 40s, and with the breeze it just added insult to injury.

Fortunately, for most of the viewing area, temperatures stayed above freezing last night except up in the north. Places like Hayward and Phillips saw low temperatures in the upper 20s. BRRR! The cold air has shifted to the east for tonight and strengthen, which could have very bad consequences for folks out to our east. Check out the surface map below. You can see the cold front has dropped down into the mid-Atlantic. The polar high pressure has dropped in on the northeast for tonight. The combination of light winds, clear skies, as well as the colder air mass will make for a scary night for area fruit growers.

The heat wave the past couple of weeks has lead to one of the earliest blooms since the early 1900s. Below are the freeze warnings that are in effect in the white for the northeast. A hard freeze is expected, which means temperatures down to 28 degrees or colder. Growers of apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, plums, and cherries will do their best to battle the cold temperatures. The cold temperatures will damage the budding flowers on the trees that make the fruit later in the year. They will likely use big fans and propane heaters to keep temperatures up a few degrees in the orchards.

It’s going to be a struggle...and maybe a losing battle. Check out forecast low temperatures for the region. Many areas will see low temperatures down in the low 20s and even 10s in some spots. That may make this a losing battle with farmers losing possibly millions of dollars from the freeze. A similar situation happened back in 2007. A warm spell in March led to a cold spell in April. The cold snap brought killing freezes and frosts to the Midwest and South. The result was 2.2 billion dollars in agricultural damage. It wiped out apple, peach, winter wheat, and alfalfa crops. Good news is things warm up after tonight for the Northeast, so hopefully the damage from this freeze is not as severe.

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