By Mary Beth Smetzer
FAIRBANKS — An early frost hopscotched across the Tanana Valley destroying unprotected garden produce and flowers wherever it touched down Wednesday morning.
The helter skelter pattern left Linda Dolney at Ann’s Greenhouses scratching her head.
“It was really weird,” she said. “We had nine flats of marigolds out, and just a few flowers in the middle got it.”
The cole crops in Dolney’s garden, such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, are OK, she said. “But the tender crops like squash, cucumbers, peppers and eggplants that were not covered were mostly zapped,” Dolney said.
Her neighbor wasn’t so lucky. The temperature at his place dipped to 28 degrees, and everything in the garden was devastated.
“Even the potato plants were nipped,” Dolney said.
Although Wednesday night’s forecast was for warmer temps, Dolney wasn’t taking any chances and left the protective plant covers on.
Gretchen Kerndt of Basically Basil, off Herried Road, said Wednesday morning’s frost is the earliest she has ever seen.
“It didn’t kill anything,” she said. “The basil took a beating. The top leaves touching the (protective) covering were nipped.”
Big M Family Farm near Nenana experienced two consecutive days of frost with a low temperature of 25 degrees, and their vegetable crops survived.
“We covered everything with frost covers,” Faith Minnema said. “The flowers were left out, and they are totally gone,” she said.
Matthew Kidwell, a weather forecaster with the National Weather Service, confirmed that Wednesday morning lows across the Interior dropped below freezing in some locations. Only one record was set — the overnight low temperature at Eielson Air Force Base of 30 surpassed the old record of 32 set in 1969.
Coldest spots recorded locally Wednesday morning were: Goldstream Valley, 25; Salcha, 25; Denali Park Headquarters, 26; 42-Mile Steese Highway, 28; Healy, 29; Eielson Air Force Base, 30; University of Alaska Fairbanks West Ridge, 31; and Fort Yukon, 32.
The official low temperature at Fairbanks International Airport on Wednesday morning registered above freezing at 35 degrees, Kidwell said.
Freezing or near freezing temperatures Tuesday and Wednesday mornings happened when cooler air from the northwest Arctic entering into the area combined with clear skies and calm winds, Kidwell explained.
Below-freezing temperatures in early August fortunately aren’t a common occurrence, but they have happened before.
Forty years ago, there was a nine-day cold snap when the airport recorded temperatures of 37 degrees or lower from Aug. 7-15, with Aug. 10 the coldest at 31 degrees, Kidwell said.
Today’s forecast is for warmer temperatures. With clouds moving in before upcoming rain. The forecast is for lows in the 35-45 degree range.
However, Kidwell cautioned, that lows in the Goldstream Valley, and other frost prone areas, this morning most likely will continue to hover in the 32-35 degree range.
More clouds are expected to move in today and tonight with rain likely tonight and Friday.