Orchardists hopeful hail didn't harm

Hail came in waves across the Rogue Valley Monday. That can be a frightening thought for local orchardists.

As bothersome as the hail was for drivers and shoppers, however, growers were hopeful they dodged potential damage.

"It's still too early to really tell," said Terry Light, of Hillcrest Orchards in the east Medford foothills, who has 43 acres of pears and another dozen of apples and peaches. "We got hit three times today by pea-sized hail. Whether it damaged anything? I don't think so."

He'll look for more definitive answers today.

"We're just starting to have petal fall," Light said. "There are a lot of blossoms this year, so there is still a lot of protection at this stage."

Ron Meyer, who grows on 120 acres near Talent, said the white stuff spitting down in his area didn't appear too dangerous.

"I would call it more sleet than hail, it was small," Meyer said. "From what I saw I didn't think there would be any damage. But I don't have a feel for other parts of the valley."

Doug Lowry, chief executive officer at Associated Fruit, which grows on 700 acres around the valley, said he hadn't received reports of any damage.

"It looked like it was just ball hail," he said. "It was certainly coming down, but it wasn't real hard. We don't want the blossoms damaged, but a lot of our crop isn't in full bloom yet."

Hail is always unwelcome, which usually comes in sporadic bursts, Lowry said. But the more immediate issue might be frost.

"Tonight it's supposed to get cold and there's potential for frost damage," he said. "We'll get out there and turn on fans to protect against the frost."

Meyer said high pressure accompanying clearing could create a bigger problem on Wednesday morning.

"The air is plenty cold," Meyer said. "But I think there is enough moisture that we'll have clouds (Monday night). The question is whether the air warms up enough when the high pressure moves in."

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