Cherries and berries spared by Monday’s big storm

Apples, Washington’s top crop at $2.4 billion, were largely unaffected. The fruit is still months from ripening and is more susceptible to hail than rain.

The wild storm that wreaked havoc on the Tri-Cities this week apparently spared cherries, blueberries and other crops in the region.

Dozens of Tri-City homes were damaged by rain, wind and an estimated 300 lightning strikes when a severe thunderstorm plowed through the urban areas Monday evening. But area farms were largely spared.

Cherries are highly susceptible to rain. They famously swell and split when water pools at the stem and is absorbed into the berry.

But the vast majority already have been harvested.

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Tim Kovis, communications director for the Washington State Tree Fruit Association, said the region was lucky.

The storm swept 3 to 5 miles south of the prime cherry-growing areas. Even more important, the Bing cherry harvest wrapped up over the weekend, just before the rough weather.

Bings account for 85 percent of cherries grown in the area, he said.

“Most were already in,” he said.

Apples, Washington’s top crop at $2.4 billion, were largely unaffected. The fruit is still months from ripening and is more susceptible to hail than rain.

Mark Monteith of Monteith Insurance in Kennewick said he’s seen claims for property damage such as trees falling on barns and fences, but no calls about crop damage.

Alan Schreiber, an Eltopia area farmer who manages the state’s blueberry and asparagus commissions, confirmed he’d heard no reports of significant storm-related damage.

Blueberries are a small but critical crop for Washington. Julie Michener, whose family runs Bill’s Berry Farm on County Line Road in Grandview, said the 1-acre U-Pick farm opened to visitors this past week and workers began harvesting berries from the small 7-acre commercial farm Monday.

The storm largely spared Grandview, but Michener said blueberries aren’t as vulnerable to rain and wind as cherries.

“The blueberries are pretty hardy,” she said.

Bud Hamilton, a dryland wheat farmer on Rattlesnake Mountain, was driving home from Prosser as the storm gathered. He watched the sky turn black and wondered what he’d find when he got home.

“I thought we were going to get hit,” he said.

Instead, the wind, rain and lightning passed to the south. “We were kind of on the outskirts of…

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