Another night of freezing temperatures is ahead for much of the Carolinas, where fruit growers appeared to have escaped serious damage from Wednesday morning’s bitter chill.
Temperatures dropped into the upper 20s in parts of several counties west of Charlotte around dawn Wednesday. But most readings remained above the critical area of 25 to 28 degrees, where the freeze could damage vulnerable peach and apple crops.
The National Weather Service issued another freeze watch for Wednesday night and Thursday morning, with temperatures expected to fall near Wednesday morning’s readings. The forecast low for Charlotte is 33.
The forecast is better for the Easter weekend, with temperatures expected to recover to average levels for this time of year.
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The low Wednesday at Charlotte Douglas International Airport was 32 degrees, and it dropped to 30 in places such as Kings Mountain, Lincolnton, Shelby and Statesville. A few automated weather stations west of Charlotte had readings in the upper 20s, but most locations were a few degrees milder.
Sam Hall of Bush-N-Vine Farm in York, S.C., said lows of 31 or 32 degrees probably would spare crops from significant damage.
Automated weather stations in the Fort Mill, S.C. area Wednesday morning showed lows between 31 and 33.
But Jeff Crotts of Knob Creek Farms in Lawndale said temperature readings are tricky and can differ from field to field.
“You never know exactly what the temperature will do, from place to place,” Crotts said. “I’ve been doing this all my life, and I’ve learned it’s tough to predict.”
Peach growers in South Carolina already were dealing with one damaging freeze in late March, which hit the early crop in Aiken and Edgefield counties. They said there was little they could do to protect developing peaches and apples from cold at this time of year.
Meanwhile, strawberry growers used sprinklers or covered their rows of bushes to protect against the cold.
After the near-freezing readings Thursday morning, afternoon highs are predicted to be in the low 60s. Meteorologists say temperatures will recover another couple degrees Friday, then climb into the low 70s for Saturday and Sunday.
No rain is in the forecast until early next week.