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Warmest winter in years has plants blooming early
Experts say late freeze could hurt fruit trees
Daffodils are blooming ahead of schedule due to unusually warm weather this year.

Gainesville 10-year mean temperature average January-February

2017    47.1

2016    39.2

2015    39.3

2014    35.2

2013    44.8

2012    44.0

2011    38.1

2010    35.7

2009    41.0

2008    41.1

2007    41.4

When General Beauregard Lee exited his stately white-columned manor on the grounds of the Yellow River Game Ranchon Groundhog Day morning he signaled to the world that the winter of 2017 was over and that spring had come early.

And he hasn’t been wrong. In the two weeks since, most of Northeast Georgia has experienced a barrage of unseasonably warm temperatures from the high 40s to the low 60s, punctuated by lightning-fast overnight storms.

But don’t blame him too quickly. According to data provided by the National Weather Service, the 2017 winter temperatures were some of the hottest on record for North Georgia.

With an average of 47 degrees between Jan. 1 and Feb. 16, the Gainesville area had its warmest winter season since 1991.  

But the warm temperatures are changing more than just our February activity and clothing choices. All across Hall County, flowers and trees can be seen beginning the process of annual growth a few weeks early.

At both Home Depot and the Atlanta Botanical Garden, A Smithgall Woodland Legacy, in Gainesville, employees reported that magnolia trees and daffodils had begun to bloom nearly two weeks earlier than usual.

Drew Echols of Jaemor Farms reported that the warm weather has likely pushed his peach trees to bloom three weeks earlier than normal, and that the annual strawberry crop will likely be ready much earlier than last year.

Echols says that the peach trees should be safe as long as the warm weather persists.

“We just gotta keep our fingers crossed and keep praying,” said Echols.  

According to State Climatologist Bill Murphey, the unseasonable temperatures could have a large impact on crops just like Echol’s.

“Oh, this could have an impact on the flowering trees that come early,” said Murphey on Friday. “We could still easily get a cold snap through here that would hurt the fruit trees.”

Murphey said that the problem comes from having a high drought area not being recharged by winter precipitation, combined with unseasonably warm weather like the temperatures Hall is experiencing now.

He says that these circumstances can, “potentially knock things out of balance,” but notes that there is still a lot of time for the winter recharge to happen.

Murphey says that people can expect to see several different storm systems through the last few weeks of winter.

“It certainly won’t get us out of the forest, but every little bit helps,” said Murphey.