Local farmers say they dodged a bullet on Monday, managing to escape unscathed despite frost warnings.
Mother Nature had another trick up her sleeve on Sunday night, when the National Weather Service forecasters predicted freezing temperatures through Monday morning.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), freezing temperatures ranging from the mids 20s to around 30 degrees were predicted between 1 a.m. and 8 a.m. Monday that could have had potentially disastrous impacts on sensitive vegetation, damaging crops -- or even killing them.
But on Monday, local farmers in Riverhead and the North Fork said they got lucky.
Dale Moyer of said a frost would be most likely to hurt flowering fruit plants, including grapes, apples, and peaches. But, he said, in most cases, the temperature would have to drop below 30 degrees and stay below 30 for a period of time. In Sunday night's case, he said, temperatures dropped but went up again soon after, so damage, if any, would be minor and most likely sustained in low lying areas, such as dips in fields. "I'm hoping we didn't have any damage at all," he said.
"We dodged a bullet," said Rich Olsen-Harbich, of Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue. He added that the vines at the winery are older and break out later, but still, they escaped unscathed, despite a recorded temperature of 35 degrees fahrenheit at the vineyard Sunday night. "Some of the ends of the rows on the lower sections have some slight leaf damage, but all in all, we're in good shape," he said.
Strawberries crops can be decimated by frost, but Faye Anderson of Anderson Farms in Riverhead said no frost materialized Sunday night. "We know that we had a little frost on them somewhere along the line in the past," she said. Signs of frost on the strawberries blackness on the inside of the flower. But, although there has been some evidence of frost on some of the flowers, Anderson believes it happened longer ago than the past few days.
Anderson added that the frost prediction came on the heels of the severe drought locals have experienced in the past month, causing the strawberry season to run two to three weeks ahead of schedule.
Strawberries are expected to be ready earlier than the usual target date of June 1. "It's a touchy situation," Anderson said. This year's crop, she added, looks to be made up of good-sized berries, but she's unsure when they'll be ready for picking. "It's hard to say. It's all weather related," she said.
Ron Goerler at said there was slight damage to the fields in low spots due to a frost on April 25. "I'm not sure if we got any more damage from last night," he said. "There was no damage on the new plantings -- their buds are still very tight."
At Wickham's Fruit Farm in Cutchogue, Gekee Wickham breathed a sigh of relief. "We lucked out with this year's freeze," she said. "The cherries and apricots are the most vulnerable, but they look good so far."
Still, Wickham said, the future is uncertain. "You just never know how they will turn out. And it is scary; the same sort of freeze happened last year and we lost everyhing. This year was almost a repeat of last year."
Vegetable farmers, meanwhile, weren't impacted by Sunday night's cold spell. "I didn't notice any injury," said Lyle Wells of in Riverhead.
Phil Schmitt, of Schmitt Family Farms in Riverhead, said crops such as lettuce and spinach can withstand a drop in temperature as long as it doesn't last a few days. "Lettuce can take a pretty good frost," he said.
Crops including peppers or tomatoes would have been damaged, but Schmitt says most farmers haven't planted those yet. Schmitt added there was a frost early last week, but there was not damage to his crop.