The Cost of Cold

Posted Updated
Easter Freeze Lows
Mike Moss

The last couple of blog entries I've written here have been concerned with the approach and then the occurrence of a steep turn toward colder than normal weather, a blast of cold air that produced a significant hard freeze across most of the state on Sunday April 7th, one that included a record low temperature of 27 degrees at the Raleigh-Durham airport, while some of the more rural and/or typically colder locations in our viewing area dipped into the lower 20s (A map of low temperatures around the state that day, produced by the Raleigh NWS office, is shown above). In addition to that cold Easter morning, RDU recorded low temperatures at or below freezing for 5 stright days from the 6-10th of April, tying an old record from 17-21 Apr 1983, the only other time in RDU history that we've seen five consecutive days at or below 32 degrees in April.

Those are the interesting meteorological statistics involved. The more serious impact of course was on the agricultural and horticultural communities, along with those who garden for pleasure and may have had significant damage. A story in Friday's News & Observer cited sources from state and federal agricultural agencies in preliminary estimates that the freezing weather may have caused over $111 million in losses statewide, with nursery crops leading the way, followed by fruits and vegetables (especially peaches, apples, blueberries, plums and strawberries), corn, wheat and potatoes.

Around the Triangle area, Chatham and Orange counties posted the highest losses by a significant margin with Johnston county not too far behind. I do recall on Easter morning seeing temperatures dip as low as 19 degrees at a State Climate Office EcoNet station near Siler City, and at least as low as 21 at a Division of Air quality monitoring station close to Clayton, and on a more personal note went off to work very early Easter Sunday morning with a yard full of brilliant azalea blooms at home (a few miles southwest of Raleigh) and came home to a yard full of shriveled, discolored blossoms later that afternoon, something that was probably a common occurrence for those who did not take protective measures for more sensitive plants.

Temperatures haven't been that cold since, but we have hovered on average below normal for this time of year, which may tend to continue through later this week in the wake of the nor'easter that has moved away from us today (but continues to deepen, producing strong northwest winds here that, given all the rain yesterday and the fact that trees have loaded up with leaves now, will continue to take down some trees and cause sporadic power outages into the evening hours). However, at this time longer range forecasts are indicating a return to normal and potentially above normal temperatures for this weekend and the early part of next week.


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