Citrus grower-shippers in California’s San Joaquin Valley dodged Mother Nature’s bullets for the second time this month as temperatures dipped below freezing early Christmas Eve morning.

No citrus damage from California freeze

“It looks as if we’re out of the woods at least through the first of the year,” said Paul Story, director of grower relations for California Citrus Mutual, Exeter. “The long range forecasts indicate no threat of a hard freeze for at least 10 days.”

The coldest of the 26 weather monitoring stations in the valley recorded readings of 28 degrees shortly after midnight, but none of the stations dipped lower in the pre-dawn hours, he said. Internal fruit damage can occur when temperatures reach 27 degrees or lower for an extended period, Story said.

The chilly weather is not expected to slow shipping, he said

The growers’ cost of freeze protection measures, such as operating wind machines and running irrigation water, was estimated at $4 million for Dec. 24, bringing the total for the season to date to $10 million.

About 20% of the state’s citrus crop, valued at an estimated $1.8 billion, has been harvested, according to Citrus Mutual records. The largest of the varieties, navel oranges, is projected to produce 78 million cartons for the 2009-10 season.

Harvesting of lemons and mandarin oranges also has begun. The value of the mandarin crop is put at $350 million while the lemon deal is projected to be $100 million.