Snow, sleet and rain alter Easter activities

Looking more like Christmas, Central Texans woke up Easter morning to see a blanket of snow covering the ground as the thermometer hovered below freezing. In a weather event that can only be classified as strange for much of the nation, temperatures fell from highs in the 80s last Wednesday to highs in the 50s on Friday and only in the 30s by Saturday. Rain, sleet and snow began to fall early Saturday and was accompanied by thunder and lightning. By late afternoon, as much as an inch of combined precipitation had many people wondering if this was Easter weekend or Christmas’ The community-wide Easter sunrise services planned for Richards Park and G. Rollie White were moved to alternate indoor locations as overnight temperatures hovered near or below the freezing mark. While springtime Easter dresses and outfits were covered up by winter coats, area farmers and ranchers were hoping and praying the freeze would not be too severe on the crops already well into their growing cycles. Voca grape grower Alphonse Dotson spent the weekend battleing the temperatures with hopes of saving the grape crop in his 30-acre vineyard. “I started working in the vineyard about 4 a.m. Saturday and didn’t finish until around 2 p.m. Sunday,” said Dotson. “I had recently finished installing an overhead sprinkler system, and we were able to use that to regulate the temperature of the fruit.” According to Dotson, the constant water being showered upon the fruit is a way in which grape growers can keep the fruit from freezing. “It’s not the ice that forms on the fruit, but rather the temperature of the water that helps regulate the temperatures,” said Dotson. “The critical issue is temperature and we had 34 consecutive hours of temperatures that ranged from 30 to 33 degrees Fahrenheit. “We had some of our sprinkler heads clog up and that might cost us about a 10-15 percent loss in the fruit.” In the 34-hour stretch of near freezing temperatures, Dotson estimates that he moved an estimated two million gallons of water through his irrigation system. Area wheat farmers are still in a wait-and-see phase in anticipation of the effects of the freeze on the crop. “I am sure that we have some damage, but the extent of what it will be, we don’t yet know,” said County Extension Agent Jerry Kidd. “We are hoping for the best and the moisture that came before the freeze will hopefully help us out, but our biggest problem is the length of time that the temperatures were below freezing. A lot of places were below freezing for more than 20 hours. “This will definitely have an impact, we just don’t know how much. I have heard both good and bad reports about what to expect, but it will take the plants a few more days to show the actual result of this weekend’s weather.” The normal harvest for wheat usually begins in mid-May and continues through June. According to Kidd, many of the area farmers had their wheat crops as much as two weeks ahead of schedule which could help in the overall outlook of the crop. To throw another twist in the weather of the week, daytime temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday are forecasted to be back up in the 80s getting the Heart of Texas back in line with more seasonal temperatures.

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