March 29, 2012

Deep Freeze Endangers Fruit Crop



     I am a statistic. I assume I am also one of the majority.

     I refer to the percentage of Southwestern Pennsylvanians who relished the unseasonably warm March weather.

     And also Northern New Yorkers, especially those who live far north in the state by the St. Lawrence River. My husband Monte and I stayed there between March 4th and March 11th , enjoying the same early spring heat wave.

     I never heard one complaint in either location.

     Upon our return to Pennsylvania’s Ligonier Valley I found it a real treat to sit on my patio early in the morning, drinking a mug of coffee and watching the birds at the bird feeders while I read the newspaper, according to which High temperatures eclipsed 70 degrees in Pittsburgh for 11 consecutive days, the only such stretch since record-keeping began in 1871.*

     The warm streak ended Monday night. County extension agents warned farmers (and others) to cover their fruit trees in preparation for a high-impact freeze**.

     The cold streak not only affected Southwestern Pennsylvania—The National Weather Service has issued hard freeze and frost warnings and watches in a swath from the central Great Lakes to the East Coast. Temperatures could drop as low as the mid-teens across a swath of states including Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont and West Virginia.***


     It truly was a hard frost. In Prospect and Franklin Park, Butler County, the temperature dipped to a low of nineteen degrees. It dipped to 17 degrees at Laurel Mountain in Westmoreland County (I live in a foothill of Laurel Mountain).

     The owner of Trax Farms in Finleyville, Ross Trax, and his employees scrambled to protect flowers and ran irrigation on the farm’s strawberries. Moist soil aids in preventing frost.*

     Growers in the region don’t expect to know the extent of the damage to the fruit crop until the end of this week. Hopefully the damage will be minimal.


     Although I saw no reports (they might have existed, but I didn’t see them) a hard mid-day rainstorm hit the Ligonier Valley region on Wednesday.  I had gone into the borough and enjoyed breakfast at the Diamond Café, where I was able to give one diner a promised pile of Creative Loafing magazines. This publication is from Atlanta, and her son and his wife recently moved there. We thought they might enjoy reading issues of this magazine, which I obtained when we lived in Georgia between 1982 and 1985. It was a free weekly magazine in those years. I don’t even know if it is still published.

     While enjoying a mug of coffee and a breakfast sandwich the skies outside became threatening. I didn’t think I needed the umbrella the café owner encouraged me to take, but in less than half a block the skies opened up. I returned to borrow the umbrella, and stopped at the library to wait out the storm. I spoke with the history room librarian about historical/genealogical research, and when I left I heard there had been good sized hail with the rain. Did it harm the crops further?


     The tulips on our property seem not to have been damaged by the frost. The apple tree, pear tree, and peach tree were just budding this week. Were they damaged?

     “It’s probably too early to tell. We’ll look at the buds in a day or two. You take the peach bud, cut it in half. If it’s brown, it’s dead and then it’s over for this year,” said Calvin McConnell, owner of McConnell’s Farms in Independence, Beaver County.*

     Even if the damage is minimal, the threat isn’t over. Thursday night’s forecast low in Pittsburgh is 30 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. The rest of the week is better, with lows in the upper 30s and lower 40s.*


     “We’re not in charge,” said Cameron Hosmer, owner of a sixty-acre vineyard in the New York Finger Lakes region. “We’re guests here. You’re going to have to be prepared for disappointments.”***

     Regardless, being a person who likes to purchase locally, my hope is that there is minimal damage to the orchards here in Southwestern Pennsylvania (and in other locations as well). Unfortunately, if there is significant damage, the price of fruit will rise.

     Still, we must support our local farmers.



Hard Freeze Threatens Early Spring Blossoms

Easter and Spring are Happening

Discovering Hardy Lavender

Ladybug, Ladybug, From Whence Did You Come?

The Origin of April Fool’s Day




** Hard Freeze Threatens Early Spring Blossoms



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