Frosty weather takes toll on crops

Cherry commission estimates 5-10 percent loss in HR valley

You’ve probably heard it: that hearty, rhythmic thwop-thwop-thwop that rouses you from your early morning dreams. Or you may have noticed a brownish-dull haze hanging in the skies.

Frost fans have been whirring this week and last, fighting early morning frosts that threaten the blossoms for this year’s harvest. Alongside the spinning blades lies another weapon of the land-warriors; the smudge pot.

Blossoms are tender and frost damage can reduce fruit yield. Orchardists depend upon an array of tools and interventions to defend their tender, flowering wards. Local residents don’t often realize the extent of the battle underway in the farms throughout the Hood River valley.

In an effort to keep blossoms warm enough to set fruit, farmers use the smudge pots to burn diesel fuel along tree rows.

While old-fashioned pots do pose air quality concerns for farmers and valley residents, some orchardists are now moving to natural gas systems when finances allow, taking advantage of cleaner burning fuel.

Doubling Hood River farmer worries this season, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the last two weeks in Hood River were mostly dry but ended with rain showers on April 28. Those rains, combined with current warming temperatures, are posing some risk of increased fire blight.

D’Anjou pears, Red Delicious apples, Bing cherries and Pinot noir grapes were predominantly into late bloom or post bloom stages during the weather events, with early cherries probably taking the hardest hit. Official damage estimates should be issued by May 10.

According to an early estimate, Oregon Sweet Cherry Commission Administrator Dana Branson said overall cherry loss so far in Hood River is about 5 to 10 percent. If the weather holds steady, that will stay at within normal ranges for annual frost losses, and remain relatively insignificant.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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