The storms that ripped through McAllen and other south Texas cities on March 29 with torrential rain, 75 mph winds and golf ball- to baseball-sized hail for nearly an hour left many watermelon producers in the area shocked.
“It was stunning because we’ve never seen anything like that here,” said Jeff Fawcett, sales manager for Bagley Produce Co. in Edinburg, Texas.
Though still assessing the damages, Fawcett estimated that 20% to 25% of the company’s crop was hit by the storm and of that he expected a 10% loss.
He also said the projected harvest was set for May, but storm-damaged plants would get pushed back by 30 days.
A storm of this magnitude is rare in the lower Rio Grande Valley. Some growers were affected, while others went unscathed.
Curtis DeBerry, owner of Progreso Produce in Pharr, Texas, said damages were still being assessed but his fields got mostly rain.
He expected to begin harvesting the first of May, continuing until the second or third week of June.
At Majestic Produce Sales in McAllen, owner Ward Thomas said the hail storm missed his crops and he expected a good harvest beginning in mid-April, continuing through June 10.
The fields at the Texas Melon Exchange, Edinburg, fared worse.
Owner Tony Anderson said 450 of their 700 acres were hit by the hailstorm and that vines had to be cut off and regrown. A planned late April harvest has been pushed to the last week of May.
“Damage depends on the severity of a storm,” Anderson said. “You could have slight cosmetic damage or more devastating damage like we had where the hail ruins the melons and the vine.”
Jimmy Henderson, owner of Warren Produce LLC, McAllen, in early April hadn’t assessed storm damage but was optimistic about this year’s crop.
“I anticipate the crops will come out of the normal growing season very strong and healthy, and we’re expecting some good yields.”
Overall, the south Texas growing regions expected about 25% less acreage, on top of what was lost by the late March storm.