Weekend chill won't be enough to hurt peach crop

Posted March 18

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— Just days after a sampling of spring sent temperatures into the mid-80s in central North Carolina, a late-winter freeze is in the forecast.

When spring officially arrives on Sunday, temperatures will be in the low 40s.

Ben Williams, whose family owns Kalawi Farm in Eagle Springs, will be closely watching the mercury. His peach trees blossomed early, bursts of pink flowers that signify the presence of a baby peach.

So long as the temperature stays above freezing, Williams said, his crop is safe.

"We get a little anxious about it," he said. "As long as it's 32 and above, we're good to go."

WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner pointed out that the average last freeze in the Triangle doesn't happen until mid-April.

"It's not time to start planting just yet," she said. "We've been a little fooled by this warm weather."

Garrett Johnson, who grows peaches in Candor, remembers a late-March plunge into the 20s that put the bite on his profits.

"We don't really relax until we get to April 15," he said.

With cold rain and dropping temperatures on the way for Saturday and Sunday, Johnson plans to put his wind machines to work. They can keep cold air moving and make a difference by keeping temperatures from dropping by a few degrees.

The change begins Saturday with overcast skies, said WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel. Clouds will build in over the course of the morning. The chance for rain also increases into the afternoon.

"This won't be a torrential rain," Fishel said, "but it will be enough to make it a really soggy day."

The high temperature will be in the mid-50s for Saturday and only 51 degrees on Sunday.

Rain showers will be fewer and farther apart on Sunday. "The chance of measurable rainfall that day is quite small," Fishel said.

After sunset Sunday, temperatures take another dip. The forecast low is close to the freezing mark.

"As a disturbance moves through the upper atmosphere Sunday night, we can't rule out a possible sprinkle or even a flurry or two," Fishel said.

Lows overnight Sunday and Monday could be enough for some frost, if not a hard freeze, Fishel said.


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