February 2021 Winter Storm

February 18, 2021
GO Seed
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Here at GO Seed, we just had our power and water restored due to the winter storm (11:12 am on Friday, 2/19/21), but we can’t stop thinking about all the people, cattle, and crops being devastated by this cold weather throughout the country.

Repairs are happening in neighborhoods throughout Salem, Oregon. Here’s a shot one of our Team Members captured.

Credit: Risa DeMasi, GO Seed

It’s too early to tell the losses farmers will face from this weather for a few weeks, but we did some research online using various sources and weather archives to see when the last time Texas experienced something similar and what the effects were on crops.

Previous Texas Winter Storms

Texas has experienced severe winter storms and below freezing temperatures before, most recently in:

Another cold front was in 1989, which saw the end of the cold war and the beginning of the cold wave, when temperatures hit 1°F just before the Christmas holiday in Texas.

Table 1. Recorded Temperatures in Dallas, Texas

TemperaturesDecember 23, 1989February 17, 2021
Minimum Temp1.0 °F3.0 °F
Mean Temp9.4 °F10.3 °F
Maximum Temp23.2 °F19.0 °F
Mean Dew Point-7.7 °F-0.9 °F
See the DataSee the Data

Here’s how Chief Meterologist Mike Clay remembers that day.

My TV station was on I-35 south of Waco. I remember our lobby was full of people stranded from cars that had broken down, and they walked to the station because they saw the tower and lights. There were whole families with kids just sitting in our lobby, just two days before Christmas.

Read more

The winter storm of 1989 devastated the Florida citrus industry and extended up and down the southeast coast of the United States, but the coldest temperatures relative to normal were farther west in Texas.

Credit: National Weather Service Wilmington, North Carolina

This storm broke all-time snowfall records in several parts of Texas and brought with it unprecedented cold temperatures. 

Credit: National Weather Service Wilmington, North Carolina

What Happened To Crops & Trees?

The citrus industry took a majority of the losses due to the winter freeze of 1989. Some estimate it was in excess of $60 million dollars ($127 million in 2021). The low temperatures destroyed about 24,000 of the existing 35,700 acres of citrus in 1989.

Due to the severe freeze experienced, Texas did not contribute to the U.S. citrus export in 1990. It wasn’t until 1993-1994 when trees began to produce.

Table 2. Annual production, utilization and value of U.S grapefruit by area for 1988-1992.

SeasonProduction*Fresh Utilization*Processed Utilization*Percent FreshValue ($1,000)
1988-89192,000155,60036,40081.0425,107
1989-9080,00064,20015,80080.2514,162
1990-9100000
1991-922,6002,6000100.00983
*in tons

Sources: 1993 Texas Citrus Tree Inventory Survey, Texas Department of Agriculture, USDA. 1989 Texas Citrus Tree Inventory Survey, Texas Department of Agriculture, USDA Citrus Estimates, Final Estimates for 1981-82 Crop through 1986-87 Crop, NASS, USDA. Texas Citrus Handbook, Texas Cooperative Extension, The Texas A&M University System. Texas Citrus, June1, 1994, TASS, USDA.

Table 3. Annual production, utilization and value of U.S oranges by area for 1988-1992.

SeasonProduction*Fresh Utilization*Processed Utilization*Percent FreshValue ($1,000)
1988-8978,62566,13012,49584.1113,932
1989-9051,21328,17823,03555.028,256
1990-9100000
1991-921,2751,2750100.00431
*in tons

Sources: 1993 Texas Citrus Tree Inventory Survey, Texas Department of Agriculture, USDA. 1989 Texas Citrus Tree Inventory Survey, Texas Department of Agriculture, USDA. Citrus Estimates, Final Estimates for 1981-82 Crop through 1986-87 Crop, NASS, USDA. Texas Citrus Handbook, Texas Cooperative Extension, The Texas A&M University System. Texas Citrus, June1, 1994, TASS, USDA.

What Happens Next?

Monty Dozier, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension program director for disaster assessment and recovery, said he anticipates the county emergency boards getting together across the state early next week to assess the damage. Estimates are in the high millions to possibly billions in damages due to frozen water pipes, equipment repairs, and supple chain disruptions.

Row crop injury is expected.

What Can You Do?

If you’re one of the fortunate people experiencing a mild winter and can afford to help. Here’s several organizations on the ground helping our friends in Texas.

Here’s insane pictures of how some people are living in Texas.