Chilly Temps Threaten Local Crops

Local growers went through extreme lengths to protect their plants from the cold


Chilly temperatures may be inconvenient for San Diego residents – but they are life-threatening for local crops.

In Tuesday night’s chill advisory, the National Weather Service said the impacts of the colder-than-usual temperatures may have a severe impact on plants.

Fortunately, on Tuesday night, local growers said the conditions weren’t as bad as they could have been. Still, they say they're normally not on high alert this early in the year.

The goal is simple: to keep them alive, to grow and sell. But it's not easy to do, especially with the earlier-than-expected cold weather.

Avocados, oranges and lemons are Grower, Mike Hillebrect's livelihood. He was on patrol until 3 a.m. looking out for them.

"It's way earlier than you would typically worry about having a frost. Usually the last two weeks of December and the first two weeks of January are the time we worry about the most."

Whether or not to run wind machines to bring the warm air down can be a tough call.

Hillebrecht says once they get both engines running, it costs eighty dollars per hour to run. That gets expensive when they have them up until 7 a.m. For avocados, he says the magic number is 31 degrees.

Hillebrecht just made it. His coldest spot is 32 degrees.

"Well if you don't do something you could lose the whole crop,” Hillebrecht said. “You could lose a whole year's work. You have to do something, you have to do what you can. But the cost of fuel is so high that you don't run them for fun. You don't run them unless you have to."

With rising fuel costs, to operate wind machines, he's hoping he'll again *just* make it, and be in the clear.

The University of California Small Farm program said on the south side of Highway 76, temperatures got as low as 25 degrees, but added that growers out there were lucky, and just made it in the clear, too -- thanks to their wind machines.

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