Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Southeast Freeze Might Be $1 Billion Disaster. Hope You Won't Miss The Peaches

Destroyed, frost bitten peach blooms in South Carolina means
no peach crop this year. Photo by Cindy Kubovic/Aiken Standard
Farmers in the Southeast are reeling from last week's freeze that might have caused up to $1 billion in damage to crops.

We knew ahead of time there would be serious damage and that came to fruition, as there's not a heck of a lot you can do to stop the damage from a widespread freeze.

In South Carolina, 90 percent of the peach crop was wiped out, according to television station WISTV in Columbia, South Carolina.

State officials said they hoped to get federal aid to farmers, as some could face bankruptcy over this without help.

South Carolina is normally the second biggest peach producing state after California. The South Carolina crop is usually worth $90 million, says the Aiken (South Carolina) Standard. 

Wheat, strawberries, blueberries and corn in South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina and other states were also severely damaged, the Associated Press reportsd.

The freeze was at least as bad as an epic 2007 freeze that caused about $1 billion in crop losses, the AP says. 

This freeze was so damaging because a record warm February caused plants to grow and bloom prematurely across the Southeast.

Then, that nor'easter that dumped three feet of snow on us here in Vermont last week pumped lots of Arctic air into the Southeast, causing record low temperatures.

It got down to 25 degrees all the way down to Gainesville, Florida, which is the coldest on record there for so late in the season. 
Dead, frost-bitten cherry blossoms in Washington DC
this week. Photo by Kevin Ambrose via Washington Post

In Washington DC, the annual cherry blossom bloom is badly damaged.

Blossoms that had opened have turned brown because of the subfreezing temperatures, though many blossoms that had not yet opened probably survived and will bloom normally.

Perhaps half of Washington DC's cherry blossoms might not bloom, so the season is going to be subdued

Another blast of Arctic air is coming down from Canada this week, which could cause a little more damage to cherry blossoms in Washington.

Still, people in Washington are hoping any remaining buds might bloom and hide most of the dead, brown blossoms. Still, the whole thing is depressing. I haven't seen this cherry blossom frost destruction happen in Washington in my lifetime and few other people have, either.

However, unlike the freeze last week, the cold air will not punch down into the southeastern United States, so this won't cause any additional frost damage there.

In the Northeast, the cold will be deep and mid-wintry Wednesday and Thursday, but plants haven't come far enough along to have them get nipped by the freeze.

I'm pretty sure that everybody east of the Mississippi River is SO ready for spring, despite the super mild winter that just ended.

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