Overnight freeze threatens fruit crops

April 10, 1997


Staff Writer

Local peach and cherry orchards might have suffered significant losses from the overnight frost, but there still could be enough for a good crop, agriculture officials said this morning.

Even if only 10 percent of the peach crop survived the winter-like cold, that's still enough for a good crop, said Don Schwartz, Washington County's agriculture extension agent.

Farmers normally thin peach crops. Mother Nature may have beaten them to it, he said.

"We will see some damage on peaches, but we don't know how much yet," Schwartz said.

Overnight temperatures dipped below freezing to 18 degrees in Smithsburg and 21 degrees in Williamsport, said National Weather Service meteorologist Dewey Walston.


Schwartz said, "Ordinarily temperatures that low would be devastating."

However, the winds might have prevented much of the damage to peach, cherry and apple orchards, by keeping the cold air from settling low around the orchards, he said.

Farmers will know better how badly orchards were damaged in one or two weeks, Schwartz said.

Bruce Barr, of Barr Orchards west of Smithsburg, said temperatures were too cold on Wednesday and overnight for the wind to help his orchard.

"Anything that had open blossoms were gone. I'd be surprised if there's any peaches" left in the orchard, Barr said.

Schwartz said, "Apples are going to be experiencing less damage."

While peach and cherry orchards were already blossoming, apple orchards were in their first blossom, he said. The secondary blossom might not have been damaged.

The frost might not be over, however.

"Tonight, it could get below freezing," meteorologist Walston said.

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