Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

November 24, 2007

Friday snowfall likely isolated

ASHLAND — Blame it on Michigan. Lake Michigan, that is.

The flurry of snow that greeted shoppers Friday morning was caused by what meteorologists call a plume of moisture formed over the Great Lakes and wafted southward by the winds to dump the first flakes of the season over the Tri-State.

Northeast Kentucky awoke to half-inch accumulations of snow lacing the trees, but it melted quickly.

That was because the temperature never dipped much below freezing and the ground still held heat from the unseasonable warmth of the last few days, said meteorologist John Victory of the National Weather Service’s Charleston office.

There’s little need to scan the skies for more snow, Victory said; conditions are improving and temperatures should climb this weekend to the 40s and 50s, maybe to 60 by Monday.

For anxious gardeners caught unawares when Mother Nature draped wet white snow over their ornamental plants, not to worry, said Boyd County Extension Service agricultural agent Lyndal Harned.

The snow itself has little effect on plants and in fact can serve to insulate when temperatures fall to the 20s, he said.

In fact, citrus growers down south will run their sprinklers overnight during cold snaps to coat their trees with ice, he said.

It’s the ambient air temperature that’s the killer, when temperatures fall much below freezing.

Currently there’s little to worry about in Northeast Kentucky because, even if the temperature dips overnight, recent warmth has stored heat in the earth; the heat radiates out and, for a while at least, will counteract the effects of a chilly night.

Some plants may last a few weeks longer if covered overnight with sheets or straw or even a five-gallon bucket, Harned said. Some gardeners use plastic, but plastic conducts cold and is likely to damage plants.

However, plants have evolved over the millennia to develop the limits of their growth, and gardeners can only lengthen their growing season so far.

No matter what is done, it’s only a matter of time, Harned said. “You’re delaying by a few days what Mother Nature is going to take care of.”

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or at (606) 326-2652.

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