Thursday we stopped irrigation for the day because the weather models indicated a good chance of a substantial shower at some point. When I am not irrigating it frees up an extra guy for weeding. Lately we have been falling behind in that area, so it was an opportunity to catch up a little.
At 3:30, I walked into the office to look at the radar. I was stunned at what I saw. There was a huge band of yellow, red and, almost never seen here, purple about 40 miles out and clearly moving in our direction. I said to Susan, my associate, "I have never seen radar like this before!" It immediately sent waves of fear through me as I realized that this super-cell had the potential of producing substantial hail which could destroy my early strawberry harvest. I love storms and could even see myself as a storm chaser some day. But I wanted no part of this one.
As I continued to watch the radar over the next half an hour, the super-cell continued to move closer. The movement began to show me some hope that we might not get a direct hit, but it was still difficult to tell.
I went outside and there was an eerie silence. You could see the storm in the distance. It looked ominous. I began to warn u-pickers in the field. I mobilized the staff to secure things that could blow away. I pulled my crew off of weeding to cut Peonies that I thought could be ruined. The farm was buzzing with anticipation.
At 4:45 the wind suddenly began to kick up. I waved everyone in from outside and we huddled in the store with the doors closed. The wind became fierce. Huge clouds of dust blew across the farm in a scene I had never witnessed before. The roof rocked and adrenaline was flowing. Some heavy rain came but it was clear we were going to miss the brunt of it. No hail and no damage to the strawberries. What a relief!
There is the potential of a spectacular strawberry harvest this weekend. With 7 fields ripening on the farm, I think supply has the potential of keeping up with demand. Picking conditions could be ideal as we move into a more marine influence with morning clouds and cool temperatures. These are ideal conditions for slowly sealing in the strawberries' sweet flavor.