By Janet McConnaughey/The Associated Press
An overnight freeze warning across south Mississippi and in four Louisiana parishes prompted strawberry farmers to cover their plants for protection against the cold.
Four or five hours of temperatures that can kill crops and other sensitive vegetation were likely, and animals should get extra protection, the National Weather Service said.
Chuck Ciampa of Hammond said his strawberry plants don’t yet have fruit, but he’d be putting cloth covers on the rows. That will protect them in much colder temperatures than expected Saturday night, he said.
“If it gets down to 22, 23, 24 maybe for a long period of time, we may have a problem. But what they’re talking about tonight is the low 30s,” he said.
He said tomatoes might get the same protection, but he had too few remaining to be worth the expense.
“I have been picking for a while. We got most of them off the bush,” he said.
Frank Fekete, of Hungarian Settlement south of Hammond, said he’d cover his strawberries. But the other plants now in his fields are cabbage, broccoli and other crops that can handle cold weather.
The freeze was predicted to start after midnight and continue until an hour or two after sunrise.
In Mississippi, the warning covers Wilkinson to Walthall counties and Pearl River to George counties south — except for places right on the coast — and north into Perry, Green and Wayne counties.
In Louisiana, it affects St. Helena, Washington, St. Tammany, and Tangipahoa parishes.
At Dixie Hill Farms, a you-pick-’em farm in Leakesville, Miss., Randy Childress said none of his vegetables has been planted. He grows corn, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, peas, peppers, summer squash, winter squash, tomatoes and other vegetables.
Martha Turner of Spring Lake Berry Farm in Vancleave, Miss., said blueberries would be fine at this stage of the season.
“It’s in the spring when they’re budding and it freezes that it hurts,” she said.