Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Weather extremes are a good conversational topic

Anyone looking for an escape from the warm temperatures hitting the West might want to catch a ferry to the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. Temperatures during the next few days are expected to hit the high 70s or low 80s, a bit more bearable than the higher 80s or even 90s being forecast for other parts of Oregon and Washington State.

It seems ironic: our Capital Press reporters are still filing stories this week about recent frost damage to agricultural crops in the West, at the same time that the National Weather Service has been issuing special weather statements about possible record-breaking heat waves starting to hit us tomorrow.

The service is warning about fast snow melt in eastern Oregon and Washington State that might cause flooding, while gusty winds are making travel tough in some parts of Idaho, and creating dangerous fire hazards in California.

Welcome to the West.

For a news organization like ours, it means we need to keep on top of what is happening and get the information out as soon as possible. What warnings/special statements are being issued? How should people prepare themselves, their crops, their animals and their employees? We also try to research and offer analysis on what is the short-term and long-term impact of these weather extremes.

We have posted several stories on how much the fruit and vegetable crop might be hurt by the frost; now we need to find sources that can evaluate if extreme heat this early in the year will cause more hardship or crop loss.

With water always being such an important issue here, we will watch if the high snow pack received during the last few months will too quickly run off or evaporate, leaving water supply still uncertain for the upcoming irrigation season.

There are a lot of things that happen when weather goes from one extreme to another. For example, dairy cows need some time to adjust when sudden high heat hits. Their milk production can be off. Farmers and ranchers also need to ensure there is a lot of extra water available for their livestock, as the animals need more than usual. In horticulture, plants can also feel the “shock” of temperature extremes and need extra care and especially water.

Weather is probably the biggest uniting influence there is in agriculture: All farmers are curious and eager to discuss the weather’s impact on them, their neighbors, their peers and their competitors.

So far this spring, there has been a lot to talk about — and it looks like the next few days will be no exception.

To check on the weather advisories and forecasts in your areas, check

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