The early hours of Tuesday morning could be a worrisome time for area fruit growers and backyard gardeners because of a freeze warning that was in effect overnight according to the National Weather Service and a local agricultural official.
The warning was lifted at 9 a.m.
Overnight temperatures fell below the freezing mark in Washington County, as well as in Franklin and Fulton counties in Pennsylvania and in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties in West Virginia, the weather service said.
In Hagerstown, the low temperature was 28.7 degrees at 7:10 a.m., according to weather observer Greg Keefer's website, i4weather.net. By 9:15 a.m., it had climbed to 34 degrees, above the freezing mark.
Fruit trees such as peach and cherry trees are blooming, which can leave the trees susceptible to crop damage from the cold, said University of Maryland Extension agriculture educator Jeff Semler.
Semler said the expected blustery conditions could give growers the break for which they are looking.
If there are windy conditions during a freeze, the winds can keep moisture moving and keep it from attaching to tender buds and blooms and freezing, Semler said.
A freeze could damage blooms on spring flowers but it will not hurt the plants, said Jon Snavely, owner of Snavely’s Garden Corner in Hagerstown.
Gardeners can cover their flowers, but that is most effective during a frost and might not prevent damage during a freeze, Snavely said.
Some other plants that have started to produce new growth might get damaged by freezing but they will eventually produce new growth and should be fine, Snavely said.
The expected freeze ends a period of several weeks of unseasonably warm weather in the region.
In Hagerstown, the mercury hasn’t dropped below the freezing mark (32 degrees Fahrenheit) since March 11, according to Keefer’s website.
Since then, the high temperature has reached at least 60 degrees every day through Sunday, topping the 80-degree mark three times, according to Keefer’s site.
The weather service advised that vegetation that is sensitive to freezing will be at risk for damage.
“More significant damage to vegetation will occur in locations where temperatures drop below 28 degrees for three or more hours,” according to the NWS.
Digital editor Bob Fleenor contributed to this story.