FRESNO, Calif.: The freeze gripping the West appeared on the verge of easing Tuesday, but farmers who spent millions to protect crops were still assessing damage, some produce prices climbed, and businesses and residents dealt with burst pipes.
The National Weather Service predicted another frosty night, but said temperatures would begin to warm as high pressure moved east.
For a fifth night, temperatures in the San Joaquin Valley, California’s agricultural heart, dipped below freezing, though they were a few degrees warmer than previous nights, said Paul Story of Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual, an association of citrus growers.
Growers, who have about $1.5 billion worth of citrus fruit on the trees, used wind machines to keep warmer air closer to the ground and irrigation to raise temperatures.
California’s strawberry growers also were using wind machines, sprinklers and helicopters, said Carolyn O’Donnell with the state Strawberry Commission. In Oxnard and Santa Maria, growers who lacked frost protection saw damage to flowers and fruit in their early berry varieties.
The cold also damaged the southwestern lettuce crop. In Yuma, Ariz., an area which provides much of the nation’s leafy greens during the winter, farmers reported damage to romaine and iceberg lettuce crops.
Kurt Nolte, an agricultural agent for the University of Arizona, said that translates into higher prices for the consumer.
“We are going to be suffering from a shortage of some vegetables for about three weeks because of the production gap,” Nolte said.