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January 15, 2013
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Bitter cold grips Nevada; damages fruit harvest in Calif.

Weather forecasters warned Northern Nevadans to brace for more bitter cold as the temperature dropped to a record minus 24 in Ely early Monday and is expected to continue most of the week.

In Carson City, the temperature fell to minus 1 early Monday. Else where in the region, temperatures hit minus 2 in Minden, minus 11 in South Lake Tahoe, minus 7 in Fallon and -21 in Winnemucca. Ely's record set early Monday blew away the old mark of minus 17 set in 2007.

In California, the cold spell took its tool on crops.

Citrus growers reported damage to crops and an agriculture official said national prices on lettuce have started to rise because of lost produce in Arizona.

In California's San Joaquin Valley, where farmers are fighting to protect about $1.5 billion worth of citrus fruit on their trees, Sunday temperatures dropped to 25 degrees in some areas and stayed low longer than previous nights.

Prolonged temperatures in the mid-20s or below cause damage to citrus crops.

"It was our coldest night to date," said Paul Story of Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual, an association of the state's 3,900 citrus growers. "I think mandarin growers are going to see a range of significant damage, enough that they will have to separate their crops."

Mandarins are more susceptible to cold than other citrus and start to freeze at about 32 degrees, Story said. Because many mandarin trees were planted in recent years as the fruit's popularity soared, they are grown in colder areas outside the traditional citrus belt.

Other citrus crops saw little or minimal damage, Story said. This year's high sugar content in oranges helped protect them, he said, because sugar inhibits freezing.

Growers deployed wind machines to keep the warm air closer to the ground and irrigation to raise the temperature in the groves. Rows farthest away from the protection could be damaged, Story said. And farmers who do not have wind machines could lose crops.

Lindsey-based Robert LoBue - who grows 1,000 acres of citrus, including mandarins - said wind machines were critical in his groves, but saving the crop doesn't come cheap. LoBue runs one wind machine for every 10 acres and has to employ a crew to operate them.

"We're very diligent, we run the wind and water all night," LoBue said, "but we're spending thousands of dollars to protect these crops."

And farmers are on the hook for a fifth cold night: a freeze warning remains in effect until 10 a.m. today for central California.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Jan 15, 2013 02:17PM Published Jan 15, 2013 02:01PM Copyright 2013 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.