Warm weather may set record, harm peach crop

If Middle Georgians thought the weather in 2008 would improve, it's been something of a disappointment so far.

The National Weather Service is predicting a high of 75 degrees Tuesday, which would just miss tying the record of 76 degrees for Jan. 8 set in 1946.

"So far, we haven't had any records set, but we're looking to push the record highs," said Dan Darbe, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Peachtree City. "We haven't broken any records (in 2008) so far, but we are on a warm trend and are near records."

A 30 percent chance of rain tonight may indicate cold weather coming through, Darbe said, but temperatures are expected to say in the mid-70s through Thursday, when more rain is expected. There's a 50 to 60 percent chance of rain on Thursday, leading to a temperature drop Friday.

Friday's high is expected to be 60 degrees.

But even that may not be cool enough for area farmers and plant growers, who are having to follow a summer of drought with an unseasonably warm winter.

"I imagine the peach growers are concerned, because they need a certain amount of chilling time," said Karol Kelly, an agent with the University of Georgia's Cooperation Extension Service in Bibb County. "And certain flowers may not bloom right, because they are blooming early."

Midstate peach farmers already have reason to be concerned, because they are about 100 hours shy of the chilling time the peach trees typically have received so far.

Robert Dickey III, who operates Dickey Farms in Musella, said peach farmers typically count the number of hours when the temperature is below 45 degrees. Depending on the type of peach grown, most farmers typically need 700 to 900 chilling hours each season, and Dickey said he usually prefers 900 to 1,000 hours.

"We've had about 400 hours," Dickey said. "We're about 100 hours behind what we (normally have at this point)."

The lone bright spot on the weather forecast is that more rain is predicted for most of the week for parts of Georgia, which will help the state's water supplies just a bit in the ongoing drought.