There go the fruit trees! Dr. Jeff Masters:
Large portions of Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania shivered through a hard freeze (temperatures below 28°F ) this morning, and cold temperatures will cause widespread damage to flowering plants fooled into blooming by last week’s unprecedented “Summer in March” heat wave. Growers of apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, plums, and cherries worked during the night and early morning to minimize the damage by running large fans and propane heaters in their orchards in an attempts to keep temperatures a few degrees warmer. While freezing temperatures for an extended period will not kill the trees, they will destroy the flowers and fragile buds that are needed to produce fruit later in the year. I expect that this morning’s freeze was severe and widespread enough to cause tens of millions of dollars in damage to the fruit industry, but it will be several weeks before the extent of the damage is known. It would take several nights of temperatures in the 20s to cause a more significant billion-dollar disaster, such as occurred in 2007. A warm spell in March that year was followed by cold temperatures in early April that were 10 – 20 degrees below average, bringing killing frosts and freezes to the Midwest and South that caused $2.2 billion in agricultural damage, wiping out apple, peach, winter wheat and alfalfa crops.
During the remainder of this week, temperatures are expected to be much warmer than they were this morning, so the freeze damage will be limited compared to 2007. However, we still have two more months to go this spring when temperatures commonly fall below freezing. Plants will steadily grow more susceptible to cold temperatures in the coming weeks as the growing season progresses, and the odds of more destructive frosts and freezes for the Midwest and Northeast fruit industry are high.