Mix of freezing temps, precipitation pose problem early this week

Joyce Miller
A mix of freezing temps and precipitation pose a problem early this week.

Though not as common as snow in February or March, it is not unheard of for Missourians to see a dusting or even blanket of measurable snow in April. In fact, as recently as 2020, snow fell in parts of Missouri on April 16 and 17 in central and northern parts of the state. Data gathered at the time by the University of Missouri Extension’s state climatologist indicated two unusual mid-April snow events impacted northern Missouri. 

The first event impacted far northeastern sections during the morning of the 16th. Accumulations were generally 1-4 inches and occurred mostly on elevated and grassy surfaces. Weather observers in Schuyler, Adair and Knox Counties reported 4-inches with 1-inch reported in nearby Scotland County. The next snow event occurred the following day and impacted much of northern Missouri with 3-10 inches and heaviest amounts reported on the Missouri-Iowa border. 

Tuesday morning’s forecast calls for a wintry mix across a large section of the state. Snow accumulation is expected north of I-70. Elsewhere will see a rain/snow mix with some accumulation possible in grassy areas. 

While snow in April is more of a nuisance than a problem, seldom creating more than a few isolated slippery spots, the drop in temperature that will accompany the weather system will be much more troublesome for plants and trees. 

With temperatures dropping into the low 20s, the National Weather Service has issued a warning for widespread frost and freeze Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. Temperatures are likely to fall into the mid-20s and low 30s in most locations. Temperatures early Wednesday are likely to be damaging to vegetation sensitive to frost and freezing temperatures. Areas of frost will be possible once again Wednesday night into Thursday morning,especially over central and south-central parts of the state. 

The frost/freeze could damage spring flowers and trees with buds. Covering plants and small trees could protect them from damage. Potted plants that can be moved easily should be brought inside. 

The Farmers Almanac says covering plants, creating a temporary pocket of warmer air is the best was to provide protection. 

Here’s what the experts at the Farmers Almanac recommend:

  • Bedsheets, drop cloths, blankets and plastic sheets make suitable covers for vulnerable plants. 
  • Woven fabrics are better than solid ones such as plastic.  Garden stores will sell “row covers” of lighter weight or thickness, giving perhaps two degrees protection, a thicker one giving up to five degrees protection.
  • Drape loosely to allow for air circulation. Do not let the material rest on the plants. Secure to ground with rocks or bricks or stakes to keep the covering from touching the foliage beneath.
  • Keep sheets or row covers at the ready, stored somewhere dry, neatly rolled up and off the ground to keep them away from vermin. If you use polythene covers, hose them down if they’re dirty and dry them so they’re ready to use when frost threatens. It’s best to have all covers in place well before sunset. Before you cover the plants in the late afternoon or early evening, water your plants lightly. 
  • Apply covers in the early evening as winds die down, and remove the coverings when temperatures rise the next day (mid-morning) so that plants can get full exposure to the warming sunlight.