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The frost/freeze program starting early this year

Once the growing season begins, the National Weather Service will begin warning of frost or freezing temperatures that can impact our plants.
Credit: Mateusz - stock.adobe.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It has been unseasonably warm in the Carolinas. This is causing tree pollen to flourish and for plants to start growing earlier than usual.

This February was the second warmest on record for the Charlotte area.  While the growing season usually starts on April 1, it's officially begun early this year.

Those budding flowers and young plants could be threatened in the coming days by cold temperatures in the forecast.

Frost advisories and freeze warnings

The early start to the growing season is prompting the National Weather Service to react. If temperatures are forecast to reach or drop below freezing, the National Weather Service will issue a frost advisory or freezing warning to advise of the favorable conditions for frost development. 

This change marks the unofficial transition to spring from winter, where the National Weather Service doesn't forewarn for freezes because they're routine and expected.

Most of the greater Charlotte area will once again become eligible for frost and freeze alerts beginning Sunday.

"This includes all of our South Carolina counties except those areas north of Highway 11, and our Northeast Georgia Counties except for Rabun and Habersham," Trisha Palmer, the warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Greenville-Spartanburg, wrote. "This also includes all of our North Carolina piedmont and adjacent foothills."

Until the growing season starts in the mountains and higher elevations, they will not yet be eligible for the alerts. Thus despite the presence of cold temperatures, the alerts could appear as a patchwork across the region until all counties become eligible. 

Other parts of the Carolinas, which are under the jurisdiction of different National Weather Service offices, are also being added to the program early this year. The National Weather Service in Wilmington, North Carolina began Thursday and had already issued frost advisories along the Carolina coast because of the cold temperatures in the forecast.

Credit: NWS GSP

If a frost advisory and freeze warning is issued for your location, take appropriate action to protect vulnerable vegetation. An easy way to do this is to place a piece of newspaper or plastic over the plants.

🌩️ If you like weather, watch Brad Panovich and the WCNC Charlotte Weather Team on their Emmy Award-winning Weather IQ YouTube channel. 🎥

Why Start Early?

Temperatures are forecast to drop below freezing for the first time in weeks. 

Since flowers are already flourishing, many well ahead of schedule, the National Weather Service felt it best to start the program early.  These alerts encourage farmers and home gardeners to take proactive measures to protect their crops and gardens.

Low temperatures are currently forecast to be around frost-producing levels Tuesday through Thursday in Charlotte. By Wednesday morning, temperatures could potentially drop into the 20s.

Contact Chris Mulcahy at cmulcahy@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitterInstagram and TikTok.


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