Storms causing damage to vulnerable Valley crops

FRESNO, Calif.

Some of the hail was bigger than the fruit on the tree.

With more storms coming, farmers aren't holding their breath until the weather clears.

In Traver hail cannons were going off most of the afternoon. They still weren't much of a match against the thunder, heavy rain and small hail that pummeled the area on Friday.

On Wednesday, grower Greg Jackson took photos of the hail that rocked his crop, splitting some nectarines in half. His grove looked like a winter wonderland.

In one photo you can see the hail is just as big as the fruit. Now Jackson thinks he may have lost about half of the nectarines in this grove.

"Out here in Traver it got split in half down to the pit some of the stuff and it's pretty impressive it split and leave half on the tree and half on the ground," Jackson said.

Jackson also grows peaches, plums, apricots and cherries. He says the nectarines are in a pivotal growing stage and expect to harvest in May.

Thankfully, he says, he hadn't thinned his trees yet. Though most of the leaves are on the ground, they may have ultimately protected the crop that did survive.

"We'll keep working just try to maintain these year instead of try to make a profit," Jackson said.

Tulare County Ag Commissioner Marilyn Kinoshita says a roughly 30-square mile area from Traver to Kingsburg saw the brunt of Wednesday's hail.

From nectarines to peaches and plums, many crops had physical damage to nearly all of the fruit on the tree.

"It was fruit that was out of its jacket, real vulnerable and tender. They're in their growth period," Kinoshita said.

Kinoshita says once the fruit gets to the packing sheds there will likely be less fruit that's of export quality.

"So much damage on really perishable high value crops for us and they're very important to Tulare County," Kinoshita said.

Once the storms pass the Ag Commissioner will be contacting growers in this area to get more of a damage estimate to the crops, but some growers say it could be May before they know just how much of a loss they suffered.

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