AP TELEVISION AP CLIENTS ONLY
Hemet, Calif. - January 14, 2013
1. WS, mountain, orchard grapefruit trees, irrigation ditch
2. WS, citrus grower John Gless walks through his orchard
3. SOUNDBITE: John Gless/Citrus Grower
"Last night was our first really cold night. We ran the machines you see behind us for 12 hours. We can pick up 2-3 degrees from our machines. Last night we kept it at about 25 (degrees)." :15
4. MS, Gless' grandson, also named John Gless, picks fruit off tree and cuts into it
5. TS, tearing apart grapefruit
6. SOUNDBITE: John Gless/Citrus Grower
"We harvest between 4-5-thousand pounds of navel oranges per acre and the grapefruit are more like 8 or 9-thousand pounds and acre. What percentage of that will be damaged we don't know yet." :12
8. TS, icicles on fruit
9. WS, rows of citrus on hill
10. SOUNDBITE: John Gless/Citrus grower "We have between 170 to 200 employees and if we can't pick we have to layoff our picking crews. That would be probably about half of that." :12
11. MS, grandson moves bins of Valencia oranges
12. MS, grandson next to 2 bins of oranges
13. SOUNDBITE: John Gless/Citrus Grower
"We run water and the wind machines behind us bring the warm air down and it circulates with the cold air below. It's about 2-3 degrees we can gain with that. And another degree or so for the water." :16
14. TS, 2 bins of Valencias
15. CU, Valencia oranges in bin
16. SOUNDBITE: John Gless/Citrus Grower
"The downside of us losing our fruit is that you have to buy it from another country. Plus the value of the fruit that's left has to go up to the consumer, because there's just less fruit to go around." :16
17. MS, truck moves bins to stack
18. MS, water tank in shed
19. WS, Gless and grandson walk across parking lot
As an unusual cold gripped the West Coast for the fifth day, some California citrus growers began to see damage on Monday.
In the San Joaquin Valley, where farmers are fighting to protect about
$1.5 billion worth of citrus fruit on their trees, Sunday temperatures dropped to 25 degrees in some areas and stayed low longer than previous nights.
Prolonged temperatures in the mid-20's or below cause damage to citrus crops.
"It was our coldest night to date," said Paul Story of Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual, an association of the state's 3,900 citrus growers.
Growers deployed wind machines to keep the warm air closer to the ground and irrigation to raise the temperature in the groves. Rows farthest away from the protection could be damaged, Story said. And farmers who do not have wind machines could lose crops.
"We run water and the wind machines behind us bring the warm air down and it circulates with the cold air below. It's about 2-3 degrees we can gain with that. And another degree or so for the water," said John Gless, a third-generation Riverside County-based grower.
Gless walked a grapefruit grove in Hemet with his grandson on Monday, surveying the damage. They cut open the yellow orbs, looking for evidence of frost damage inside the fruit.
Gless said he won't know exactly how much fruit was lost until Tuesday.
But if his losses are significant, he'll have to layoff picking crews.
Growers say saving their crop doesn't come cheap. They have to pay crews to run the water tanks and wind machines, mechanics to fix them and for gas to power the machinery.
Farmers are on the hook for a fifth cold night: a freeze warning remains in effect until 10 a.m. Tuesday for central California.
In Southern California, strong winds helped to keep crops out of danger by keeping the cold from settling.
Temperatures in downtown Los Angeles plummeted to 34 degrees, breaking the previous record of 36 degrees set on Jan. 14, 2007.