April 11, 1997 in City

Jack Frost Just Won’t Go Away Forecast Of Record Lows Has Orchardists Scrambling

Grayden Jones Staff writer
 

That noise you heard last night was your furnace.

In a winter that never ends, temperatures early this morning were expected to drop to a record low 21 degrees, turning Spot’s water dish into a hockey puck and dashing hopes for an early spring.

Trapped beneath clear skies and a Canadian cold front, some protected valleys north of Spokane could suffer temperatures as low as 10 degrees, the National Weather Service warned Thursday.

That’s cold enough to turn budding flowers and vegetables into limp fodder for the compost pile.

“If you could lay a sheet or some newspaper over those garden plants, that would help,” said Toni Fitzgerald, horticulturist for Washington State University Cooperative Extension in Spokane.

The previous low for April 11 at Spokane International Airport was 24 degrees set in 1983, said Weather Service forecaster Paul Frisbie. The normal low temperature for the day is 33 degrees; the normal high, 55 degrees.

“We got off to a cold start this month,” Frisbie said, adding that the region should return to normal by Saturday.

Green Bluff orchardists likely will be spared extensive damage from the late-season cold snap because their fruit trees have yet to enter spring bloom, Fitzgerald said.

But in the Columbia River Basin, growers were losing sleep to watch weather instruments for signs that their budding fruit trees were in trouble.

“Growers will be up all night turning on wind blowers and heaters,” said Guy Witney at the WSU extension office in Wenatchee.

Sustained temperatures below 28 degrees can kill blooms on the state’s valuable cherry, apricot, apple and pear crop, Witney said. The state’s apple crop alone is worth $1 billion a year to farmers.

In some cases, orchardists will attempt to raise temperatures by turning irrigation sprinklers on the trees and ground, forming a thin coat of ice, Witney said. Freezing water releases heat, he said, raising air temperatures to about 32 degrees.

Bill Schillinger, WSU dryland research agronomist in Lind, Wash., said wheat and other Inland Northwest field crops generally are safe from freezing temperatures provided that daytime temperatures exceed the freezing point. , DataTimes


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