A late season cold snap will impact the Ohio and Tennessee Valley including the northern sections of Alabama and Georgia tonight. Several areas will see freezing temperatures.
Clear skies, light winds and dew points in the upper 20’s and lower 30’s will allow temperatures to plummet tonight to around freezing across the Ohio and Tennessee River Valley and parts of the Southeast tonight. This is raising concern as many fruit trees have bud and berry and vegetable plants are growing.
Frost advisories and Freeze Warnings for tonight/Saturday Morning (April 8th) are shown below.
While another subfreezing night will impact parts of Kentucky and pockets of Tennessee and North Carolina Saturday Night/Sunday. For most of the area, tonight will be the coldest.
Is This Unusual?
Especially after such a warm winter many may be asking, is this unusual for us to have a freeze (32°F Low) in April? Actually, it has happened in the past. In looking at the last 30 years (1980- 2010) of low temperatures, this area generally has a 25 – 50% chance of seeing 32°F for the locations shown in green, and a 10 – 25% chance for the locations shown in yellow.
Not again…a Hard freeze hit in Mid-March
Many orchard and berry growers are likely saying not again! We just had a hard freeze on March 15 – 17th when overnight lows in the plummeted into the upper teens and mid 20’s across parts of the Southeast. The graphic below shows the lowest temperatures reached at each climate site in March with most locations experiencing their coldest March temperature in the period of the 15th – 17th.
Was the March Cold Snap Unusual?
While hard freezes or when temperatures drop to 28°F do occur in March, the length of time that temperatures remained below 28°F was a big factor. The graphic below shows the latest hard freeze data based on historical records from 1980 to 2010.
The following graphic shows the probabilities (based on the past 30 years of historical data) of experiencing a Freeze on March 15th. Not surprising the farther north areas had higher probabilities (as high as 25 to 50% – green locations), but even in far southern Alabama and Georgia still, has a 1 – 10% risk (orange locations) of seeing a freeze on March 15th.
Impact of the March Hard Freeze
With conditions, so warm this winter, many trees and berry plants had met their chill hours/portions and were already budding and had early growth with the March event. Thus, several fruit growers experienced significant damage with that freeze.
A recent article in AgDaily interviewed several producers that are reporting 100% crop losses. Several farmers did take proactive measures. But temperatures may have been too cold for too long and several are expecting losses.
“Some farmers tried everything they could, including burning hay bales for the smoke cover,” he said. “Time will tell if any fruit from our farm will make it this season. The rabbit eye blueberries were in full bloom.”
Michael Williamson, Blueberry farmer in Alma GA
“On our farm, we have wind machines and water pumping. For frost protection, more than 100 gallons of water are pumped every minute. We are able to protect them pretty good, but I believe we have 40 percent loss.” Lane Wade of Alma Berry Farms, blueberry farmer in Alma GA
Blueberry growers were not alone, strawberry producers also had damage with the cold. In a recent Alabama Extension Daily article, Mike Reeves, Morgan County Extension coordinator indicated,
“Strawberries under row covers in the coldest areas lost open blooms, while warmer areas had no damage.”
With the March event, according to the Alabama Extension Daily article, Gary Gray, a commercial horticulture agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System indicated that peaches were thought to be ok.
“The earliest blooming varieties, which had passed petal fall and had exposed fruit, were most affected by the freezing temperatures. Thankfully many varieties are still in early bloom, or have yet to bloom and have minimal to no damage.”
However, tonight may impact even peach growers. Orchard and fruit growers are encouraged to take proactive measures.
How to Protect your Plants and Trees
Osmocote has a video on different covering options
In addition, a blueberry operator shares how covering your blueberries with water/ice can protect your crop.
The team at WxIntegrations will continue to provide relevant information and resources to help you better understand and prepare by incorporating weather impacts into your planning and response.
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