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Strawberry Farmers Fear Freeze

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ZEBULON — Forecasters were on target with warnings for farmers, as thetemperature dipped below freezing in many part of the Triangle area.

Lows reached early Thursday morning ranged from 25 degrees in Clarksville, Va., and Durham, t033 in Fayetteville. At WRAL, the low temperature -- 31 degrees -- was recorded at 7 a.m.

With prime strawberry picking season set to begin in about a week, some area farmers, such asMitchell Wrenn, said theyfeared the cold temperatures would damage crops. Last year a hard freeze inearly March destroyed two thirds of their strawberry crop. Wednesdaynight they watched another late frost come in. But, if the winds aren'ttoo brisk and the temperatures don't get too low, Wrenn thinks anirrigation pipeline will save their crop.

Fletcher Wrenn says moistening the strawberry blooms before a freezeensures that they will be protected with a layer of ice. The ice servesas a warm blanket of convection heat, keeping the bloom above freezing,and preventing it from dying overnight. As the water freezes, it actually releases heat.

When daylight comes, Mitchell Wrenn's fears are usually calmed by thebeauty of the sun's gentle sparkle against the frozen fields.

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