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Post-Chill Damage Not As Bad As Expected

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SMITHFIELD — This weekend, farmers are back in the fields, checking out the damage of this week's deep freeze.

For three nights in a row, farmers irrigated their crops, hoping to create an ice coating that would protect them from the frigid temperatures.

After three nights of bitter temperatures and high winds, farmer Keith Hill was finally able to get a good look at the damage to his crops.

Hill spent most of the day checking rows of strawberries. The black berries are a sure sign that the strawberry is dead.

Even though the damage was less than expected, Hill still lost about fifty percent of the berries already in bloom. "We probably lost a week's worth of production," he said.

Hill says the freeze was bad enough, but the winds made things worse. "The wind would blow the water away from the plants, and we couldn't keep the ice coating on it, so we lost some of them," Hill said.

Keith Hill also owns a peach orchard, and his irrigation system didn't have enough water to save both crops. Hill decided to save the strawberries, and leave his peaches to chance.

Hill says it will take another day or two before he can see which peach buds survived and which didn't.

"You always keep your fingers crossed. We got a long way to go," he said.

And, after a lifetime of farming, Keith Hill knows his luck can change as quickly as the weather.

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Julia Lewis, Reporter
Robert Meikle, Photographer
Brian Shrader, Web Editor

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