It didn’t snow in San Francisco—not really—or anywhere else near sea level late last week. Boo hoo. Let’s get over it.

But it was cold, and that brought a set of concerns unrelated to impromptu wintry recreation. Temperatures in the Central Valley were forecast to fall into the mid- to low 20s, and that could have been a disaster for the state’s No. 1 cash crop, almonds. But people watching the state’s almond orchards are guardedly optimistic today that the cold didn’t inflict severe damage on the crop. Blossoms are susceptible to freezing below 28 degrees Fahrenheit and new almonds can be frozen and killed at 30.

KQED’s Central Bureau chief, Sasha Khokha, talked to Vincent Richhuti, a grower with orchards in Fresno and Madera counties. He said he was assessing his crop’s condition, but that any damage would show itself soon.

“You can actually take the blossoms off the tree, cut them open with just your finger.And look inside. If it’s green, you’re OK,” Ricchuti said. “If it’s black, you’ve got freeze damage.”

Farther north, almonds seem to have survived the weekend without obvious harm. Monique Garcia of the Esparto Chamber of Commerce said farmers in the Capay Valley in western Yolo County had reported Monday their trees and blossoms appeared to be fine after the freeze.

Joe Connell, with the University of California Cooperative Extension program in Butte County–that’s in the northern Sacramento Valley–said most growers there have “solid-set” sprinkler systems for frost protection. He said morning temperatures never got as cold as forecast—”At 22 degrees, we would have been toast”—and that sprinklers gave enough protection to prevent the crop from major damage.

But Connell and others said that the weather throughout the second half of February could have an impact on the 2011 almond crop. Honeybees don’t like to fly in rain or freezing temperatures, and that is likely to delay the cross-pollination that almonds require.

After the Cold, No Almond Joy 28 February,2011Dan Brekke


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area’s transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED’s comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

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