Growers watch hourly temps as cold snap approaches

FRESNO, Calif.

With temperatures dropping down in the 20's, the week could be disastrous for citrus growers who will be hard at work protecting the state's $2 billion crop.

"We'll be running the micro-sprinklers," James McFarlane said. "We'll try to get that going early in the day when the sunlight can hit the soil and store up that solar energy."

The work is a big effort for just a few extra degrees of warmth. "We're just trying to gain, an old boy used to tell me, two degrees with water and two degrees with wind," he said. "Every night's different."

Creating a slight variation in temperature can be the difference of profitable produce or worthless fruit, potentially saving millions of dollars along California's citrus belt.

"They're going to be up 24-36 hours in one stretch sometimes, just either taking care of the wind machines at night and doing the regular farming during the day," Bob Blakely with the California Citrus Mutual said. "The next night they're right back at it again."

That's the plan for most citrus growers this week. And many of them will be using the Citrus Mutual's two dozen weather stations to stay up on the dropping temps. Readings on its website update every 15 minutes. Citrus specific weather reports are given twice a day.

"Many of the smaller growers key off of our website," Blakely said. "They watch that to see when the temperatures are dropping. And depending on what they see on our website, is when they'll go out and start their own wind machines."

The Storm Warn 30 forecast calls for clouds to move out, which will drop temperatures. This will leave growers stuck in the cold weather through the weekend.

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