Will local orchards suffer from the recent unusual cold spell? | Columbia Basin

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — A hovering arctic jet stream has brought bitter cold, snow, rain and hail that are of concern to growers in central Washington’s Yakima Valley.

Producer Mike Saunders with Apple King—Pro Orchard Management said the orchards were laden with snow on Wednesday, an unusual sight, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported.

Freezing temperatures started early this week and another cold spell is expected next week. Growers use wind turbines and kettles to heat apple, pear and cherry orchards.

Washington State Tree Fruit Association spokesman Tim Kovis said the trees there are in bloom but the cold is preventing bees from pollinating, which is the biggest concern.

“It’s the window that’s critical for the bees to be in the orchards and pollinating those buds for the growth process,” he said.

He said it was still too early to assess the impact and producers would know more next week.

Not all orchards in the state are in the same dilemma despite facing freezing temperatures, Kovis said. Chelan, for example, has had snow, but the fruit trees have yet to bud, he said.

On Monday, a half inch of snow was measured in Yakima and another half inch on Wednesday.

Previously, the valley hadn’t seen spring snow this late in more than a decade, said National Weather Service forecaster Brandon Lawhorn.

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