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Vineyards, orchards dealt glancing blows by Tuesday's lows

POSTED: April 8, 2009 10:27 p.m.

Mother Nature dealt a glancing blow to Northeast Georgia orchards and vineyards Tuesday night, but nothing near the knockout punch they received two years ago.

"We dodged a bullet," said Drew Echols of Jaemor Farm, a peach and apple orchard near the Hall and Habersham county lines.

Echols estimated that 20 to 25 percent of the peach crop may be lost, but that’s a far cry from the Easter weekend freeze in 2007 that obliterated that year’s crop.

"If I could average 75 or 80 percent every year, I’d take that," he said.

The news appears good for mountain wineries where varieties of white grapes, such as chardonnay, had already started budding.

"Our vineyard in Clarkesville had chardonnay that was already out and it did get nipped," said Steve Gibson, general manager of Habersham Winery. "It’s hard to tell at this point how severe it is, but nothing like what happened in 2007. That was such an extended period of unbelievably cold weather."

Both Echols and Gibson said temperatures in the growing areas dipped into the mid-20s before dawn.

At Jaemor, massive oscillating wind turbines were turned on around 4:30 a.m. creating a breeze with hopes of avoiding frostbite on the peach buds.

Pam Knox, assistant state climatologist, said the average date of the last frost in Gainesville is April 3. The latest frost in recent years was April 23, 1986.

"I’m hopeful this will be the last cold spell of the season," Knox said.



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