Area farmers brace for freezing overnight temperatures

Jamie McLusky hasnâ??t been sleeping much the past few days.

From keeping track of the latest weather forecast to constantly roaming his more than 100 acre LaFayette farm, McLusky is doing everything he can to prepare for another night of freezing temperatures.

With some of his apple crop already starting to bloom because of stretches of unseasonably warm weather the past couple of months, McLusky is concerned many wonâ??t make it through the night â?? but wonâ??t know for sure until June.

â??You just donâ??t see it right away,â?? McLusky said Saturday evening. â??If it isnâ??t a kill of fresh fruit, itâ??s pretty much apple cider from the frost markings.â??

An elaborate sprinkler system keeps the ground beneath his apple trees moist, in attempt to increase humidity in the air and boost temperatures by as many as three degrees.

â??Every degree counts,â?? McLusky said.

Once temperatures drop below 32 degrees, McLusky will fire up hundreds of smudge pots located throughout his orchard, allowing hot smoke to warm up the plants as much as possible.

But as much time and energy McLusky puts into trying to salvage his crop, he said he knows Mother Nature ultimately decides which apples survive and which ones die.

He said he is just hoping he doesnâ??t repeat the disaster of 1981. That year, cold temperatures created frost 18 times, wiping out 80% of his crop.

A frost overnight Saturday into Sunday would 13 this year.