Traverse City Record-Eagle

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April 8, 2010

Winter returns; Some fruit damage expected

Fruit growers 'see the potential for a small amount of damage'

TRAVERSE CITY -- Winter is back, at least temporarily.

Area residents could awaken today to find as much as three inches of accumulated snow, following a couple of sun-drenched weeks highlighted by record-breaking temperatures that reached the 70s and 80s.

The National Weather Service station in Gaylord has issued a winter weather advisory in effect from 2 a.m. to 2 p.m. today. Chilly temperatures accompanying the snow blast will continue into Friday and could be a bit of a threat to the region's prized cherry crop.

"We could see the potential for a small amount of damage, but we're not far enough along to sustain any major damage," said Ben LaCross, manager at LaCross Farms in the Leelanau County community of Cedar.

LaCross primarily grows cherries, but also harvests apples and plums. His trees aren't yet in bloom, but the buds are growing.

"We're starting to see a little bit of bud swell, but we're a few weeks away from bloom on cherries," he said.

The forecast calls for temperatures in the mid-30s today and some possible lake effect snow showers overnight, said Dave Lawrence, meteorologist at the Gaylord weather station.

The real trouble comes with the expected low temperature in the mid-20s early Friday.

That's well below freezing and could spell danger for fruit growers.

"If we start getting down in the low 20s, we could be having some issues," said Nikki Rothwell, coordinator at the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station in Leelanau County. "We deal with this a lot of the time, but not usually this early."

LaCross said a more prominent threat comes from the early snow melt and unseasonably warm temperatures in recent weeks, conditions that spurred premature stirring in fruit trees.

"The real scary thing is we had frost on June 3 last year. So that opens up the potential for a two-month frost period, when in a normal year we'd have a one-month frost period," LaCross said.

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