Cold snap on its way to the Valley; citrus growers ready for action

The Fresno BeeDecember 1, 2013 

Citrus farmers are readying for an expected coldsnap later this week the the Valley. Here, an orange tree near Exeter holds onto ice formed by the orchard's irrigation system during a hard freeze that occurred in 2007.

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Fresno's unseasonably warm temperatures will be a long-gone memory when freezing temperatures roll into town by the middle of the week.

The National Weather Service in Hanford issued a freeze watch for the central and southern San Joaquin Valley starting late Wednesday and continuing through Saturday.

Temperatures are expected to fall into the high 20s and low 30s, a sharp contrast to the high 60s over the Thanksgiving holiday, said meteorologist Jim Andersen.

The normal high temperature in Fresno this time of year is 59 degrees, Andersen said. On Saturday, the high was 69.

"You can see we're about 10 degrees warmer than we normally are," he said.

A cold front, followed by an arctic front, will slowly bring temperatures down from the 60s and 50s on Monday and Tuesday to a low of 29 degrees by Wednesday night, with daytime highs in the upper 40s and low 50s the remainder of the week.

There is a 30% chance of showers on Tuesday, but the main concern is the freeze, said Andersen who advises residents to bring cold sensitive plants and animals inside, watch exposed pipes for damage or cracks and check on elderly neighbors who may not have turned on their heat yet.

Citrus growers will monitor the weather to determine whether they should begin defensive procedures against the cold, but it's too early to tell yet what should be done, said Bob Blakely, director of industry relations for the California Citrus Mutual.

"What they will be doing when we get closer is, they will be watering the fields and getting the ground moisture up," Blakely said. "That's about the only thing they can do right now."

This week's expected cold front is the first to hit the Valley this season. In previous years, freezing temperatures hit the area during Thanksgiving week. Cooler temperatures are needed for the citrus to ripen properly, Blakely said.

"We've needed a little bit of cold weather to harden things off," he said.

But not too cold yet, he said, aware that the coldest time of year -- Christmas week -- is fast approaching: "We're certainly getting into that time of year."

Despite little rain in the forecast, the city of Fresno on Sunday switched to its winter watering schedule. Odd-numbered addresses water on Saturdays only, while even-numbered addresses water on Sunday.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6495, blee@fresnobee.com or @bonhialee on Twitter.

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