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Coldest spell of the season expected
Temperatures could dip into low-20s
Some residents of Southeastern Tulare County may have seen some snowflakes this morning as a very cold storm system moved into the Valley. In its wake dangerously low temperatures for growers are expected through Monday morning.
AccuWeather and the National Weather Service reported the arctic plunge will drop temperatures into the low-20s and possibly upper-teens in some parts of the Valley, causing great concern in the citrus belt of Tulare County.
“This is the first weekend that’s really going to have an orange guy concerned,” said Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual in Exeter.
Nelsen said growers are preparing for temperatures as low as 23 degrees in the citrus belt, about 3 to 4 degrees colder than any previous night this winter.
According to AccuWeather Western Weather Expert Ken Clark, “The coldest air of the season will settle over much of California Friday and Saturday.”
The initial push of cold air will bring some snow to the Sierra Nevada, but not an exceptional amount of snow. Up to a half a foot of snow will fall over northern areas with perhaps a couple of inches over the central locations.
Snow is in the forecast for Springville and foothill locations 1,000 feet and above. However, U.S. National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Jones said less than an inch of snow is expected in the lower elevations and less than six inches in the upper elevations. He said the best chance for snow, including possible snow flakes on the Valley floor, will occur early this morning. He said the storm system should move out of the Valley late today, but showers could linger in the foothills and mountains into Friday.
The weather services are calling for lows of 28-33 degrees Thursday night, 26-31 Friday night and 25-30 Saturday and Sunday nights.
This month has had its cold spells, but nothing that really threatened the 2012-13 citrus crop. In fact, pointed out Nelsen, the cold has served to “toughen up” the fruit, making it less susceptible to the cold. Also, the sugar content of the fruit is excellent and that also allows the fruit to withstand colder temperatures. However, mandarins are at greater risk to damage than navels.
Citrus growers can raise the temperatures in their groves 3 to 5 degrees if conditions are just right. Those conditions include an inversion layer with some warm air aloft that can be brought down by the wind machines, and moisture in the ground. Nelsen said it was not good news that the storm will not produce much rainfall.
“Everybody’s preparing, checking wind machines, checking water systems,” he said.
Only about 25 percent of the half a billion dollar mandarin and navel orange crop has been harvested, said Nelsen.
Jones said snow may actually stick to the ground at about 1,500 feet today.
“The greatest amount will be from a trace to a few inches,” he said.
The forecast is calling for a 40 percent chance of rain/snow at Springville today, dropping to 30 percent tonight.
The weather service has issued a freeze watch and a winter storm warming for the mountains through Monday.
“Temperatures could bottom out in the mid- to upper-teens for a couple of hours this weekend,” stated the special weather statement. Temperatures below freezing are expected by 11 p.m. and last into mid-morning.
Officials are warning residents to protect plants and pets.