Washington State hailstorm fruit damage still unclear
Washington State growers and packers are currently assessing the damage of last week's heavy thunderstorms and hail on their fruit orchards, claiming it will be another week before the full effects are clear.
Apple producers have been urged to be on the look out for the spread of fire blight in blocks already known to be infected and to cut out affected branches.
The storms are a blow for the state which was expecting a bumper crop this season. However, Washington Growers Clearing House manager Kirk B Mayer reported that damage was localized.
"Growers and packing facilities are currently evaluating the various levels of damage. Damage varies from block to block," he told www.freshfruitportal.com.
"Some blocks of apples, pears and cherries have experienced very little damage while some blocks will be diverted to the processor."
He was upbeat that a full crop of sweet cherries, pears and apples was still expected to be picked.
"The peak sweet cherry harvest is currently moving into the higher elevation production areas. The cherry harvest is 65-70% complete and is expected to finish in late August."
Pear and early variety apple harvests are expected to begin in mid-August with apple picking expected to continue until the first part of November.
The official Washington State apple crop estimate is expected to be released the first week of August.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, has said in counties not designated as disaster areas but where 30% of crops had been lost, farmers would be eligible for emergency loans.
Farm Service Agency State Executive Director Judy Olson told website News.wsu.edu that this could help growers affected by the freak weather.
"This provision may be especially applicable due to this season's thunderstorms, which caused isolated damage throughout the state," she was quoted as saying.
Washington State University AgWeatherNet meteorologist Nic Loyd, said a rare weather pattern that resulted in a convergence of factors resulting in the damaging weather.
"These factors include warm air, moisture - the fuel for the storms - an unstable low-pressure system, wind shear, and a dynamic cold frontal passaged that acted as a trigger," he was quoted as saying.
"The resultant weather included severe thunderstorms that featured strong winds, heavy rain and flash flooding, lightning and large hail in some places."