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This Month in Climate History: April 2007 Easter Freeze

Image of frozen oranges

Many blooming fruit crops, like the oranges pictured, here were destroyed by the freezing temperatures in the eastern United States on April 4–10, 2007.

Unseasonably warm weather in March 2007 over the eastern half of the United States prompted early growth of many agricultural and horticultural crops, ranging from wheat in the Central Plains to fruit trees and pastures across the Southeast and parts of the Midwest. March monthly temperatures averaged between 2°F and 10°F above average in these areas, contributing to the second warmest March on record for the entire United States at the time.

The March warmth didn’t last long, however. Arctic cold followed in early April with over 1,500 weather stations breaking or matching daily record low temperatures. Low temperatures in the teens occurred throughout the eastern half of the country, and freezing temperatures lasted almost a week in some areas. The duration of the cold combined with strong winds hindered efforts to take freeze protection measures for high-value horticultural crops.

With temperatures well below 25°F in many locations, agricultural officials estimated farmers lost about 90% of their crops. And, many farmers lost nearly all of their crops. The widespread freeze extensively damaged agriculture in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, resulting in over $2 billion in losses.

According to Virginia's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, peaches and apples were the most affected in Virginia, with apple losses varying from 5% to 90% and peach losses varying from 80% to 100%, depending on the area. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also estimated that South Carolina’s peach production was reduced by as much as 85% and Georgia’s was reduced by as much as 68%.

Winter wheat across the Central Plains and Midwest, blooming fruits across parts of the Midwest and southern United States, and emerging corn in the South were among the hardest hit agricultural and horticultural crops. Other commodities harmed by the freeze included numerous specialty and nursery crops. In addition, new growth of pastures, alfalfa, and red clover was burned back by the freeze. In the end, the USDA declared nearly 1,000 counties in 24 states disaster areas due to the freezing temperatures.

For more information on this event, see the April 2007 U.S. Climate Report, The Easter Freeze of April 2007—A Climatological Perspective and Assessment of Impacts and Services technical report, or the Billion-Dollar Weather/Climate Disasters page.