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Snow record dies, but your tomatoes should live

Published May 24, 2010 5:51 pm

Weather » May snow sets Utah spring record
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Spring weather records in Utah are made to be broken.

And Monday's storm did just that, setting a record for the latest date measurable snow has fallen at the Salt Lake City International Airport.

The storm was pretty wet. Rain, coupled with 0.2 inches of snow, totaled 0.86 inches of water at the airport. A measurable amount of snow is anything over 0.1 inch, said meteorologist Monica Traphagen of the Salt Lake City office of the National Weather Service.

The previous record was on May 18, 1977, when half an inch of snow fell at the airport, she said.

This time of year, the weather raises a host of questions.

Like this: Are we done seeing flakes fly through the sky?

Maybe. According to the Weather Service, Utahns statewide will see a clearing and warming trend through Friday. But another wet system is poised to move into the area late Friday and Saturday, bringing rain -- not snow -- to northern Utah valleys.

"That storm will be a fast mover," Traphagen said.

Sunday should be clearing with temperatures rebounding, although cooler than normal. Memorial Day should be clear and warm.

Is it safe to plant tomatoes?

Yes. Temperatures should not drop into the 30s. But Santaquin fruit grower Ray Rowley is closely watching the weather this week to determine if he must turn on heaters and wind machines to protect blossoms. Earlier this month he lost half his peach crop in the aftermath of a similar snow storm.

"After that storm, we lost our fruit wherever we couldn't get our heaters," Rowley said.

Across the state, fruit producers are assessing damage to their fruit crops from the earlier frost. Cherry and apricot crops were heavily damaged, according to a report released Monday by the Utah Agricultural Statistics Service. Most farmers are concentrating on vegetable crops in an effort to replace some of the lost fruit income, the report said.

How's the golf?

Soggy. That has meant diminished play and income for area courses. In Salt Lake City, 9-hole rounds were down 17 percent in April from the same month in 2008, said David Terry, director of the Salt Lake City golf enterprise fund. And May looks to be down as much as 25 percent from last year.

"We'll be very lucky to break even this year," he said of the revenue supports the city's golf courses.

How's the skiing?

Very good. Snowbird received about one foot of new snow during the past storm. About 9 inches fell Monday, said Jared Ishkanian. The resort has now received more than 600 inches of snow this ski season.

"The skiing is really good. People are having a good time," Ishkanian said.

Snowbird is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through June 20. Ski lifts also will be running on Memorial Day.

How is our water storage?

Reservoirs, with the exception of Lake Powell, will be 90 to 100 percent of normal, said hydrologist Brian McInerney, of the National Weather Service. The cool, wet weather has kept snowpack in the mountains from melting. But in the coming weeks, streams will be running high as temperatures rise.

Nonetheless, spring runoff will be only 65 to 70 percent of normal because the snowpack is subpar and soils are dry. But abundant water remained in reservoirs because of last year's wet June, McInerney explained. "We have a really good water supply this year."

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Tribune reporters Jason Bergreen and Dawn House contributed to this report.

Gardening in Utah's fickle weather

In northern Utah, the typical frost-free date to plant a garden is May 14 -- 10 days before Monday's snow flurry. Utah State University suggests that gardeners consult local farmers or a horticulturist before planting.

Generally, urban and suburban areas are slightly warmer because heat from buildings and warmth generated by sunlight reflected from roads and other surfaces increase temperatures and delay frost.

Start with hardy vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, onions, peas and spinach, which can be planted as soon as the soil is workable. To protect against frost, use blankets, sheets, burlap bags or plastic. But be careful so the plastic doesn't touch the plants or frost damage may still occur.

For more information visit http://extension.usu.edu/yardandgarden/htm/vegetables-fruits-herbs.

Snow totals from Monday's storm (in inches)

Brighton » 9

Snowbird » 9

Suncrest » 7

Levan » 5

Upper Millcreek » 3

Oakley » 3

Peoa » 3

Park City » 2

Bountiful » 2

Cedar City » 0.5