Freezing temperatures are forecast for parts of Southcentral

Lisa Demer

Southcentral gardeners: Be warned and get ready to protect those annuals.

After weeks of record warmth, some areas may see freezing temperatures Monday night and an even bigger area is predicted to be hit Tuesday night.

The National Weather Service issued a notice late Monday afternoon to expect freezing weather Monday and Tuesday nights in these areas: East Anchorage, especially around the Campbell Creek Science Center, interior Kenai Peninsula and sheltered parts of the Susitna Valley and Copper River basin.

"This has been one of the warmer Mays on record," said meteorologist Shaun Baines. Temperatures had reached the low 70s in areas. "A lot of people have gotten ahead of themselves with outdoor planting."

Cold temperatures will damage certain annuals, especially those that have not been hardened off. Plants can be moved indoors or covered. Some -- broccoli and kale, snapdragons and sweet peas -- tolerate a bit of cold, but others -- tomatoes and cucumbers, begonias and dahlias -- will be damaged or killed.

Rob Wells, a Valley dahlia farmer, recommends protecting plants already in pots or the ground with a lightweight landscape fabric, a lightweight trash can or an empty two-gallon plant container. Whatever is used needs to be weighted down, he said.

"It's a matter of a few hours of protection but we know it's going to make a difference," said Wells, who already has distributed about 500 dahlia starts this year.

Wells said dahlias shouldn't be heavily watered before a cold snap because their water-filled stalks could freeze.

Cooler air has been ushered in from the Arctic over the last couple of days, but high winds helped to keep night-time temperatures warmer than they would have been. The winds are expected to begin to diminish Monday night, the National Weather Service said.

By Tuesday, winds cross Southcentral are expected to lighten up, and an even bigger area may see temperatures in the 30s, the Weather Service said.

Areas close to Cook Inlet, Turnagain Arm and Knik Arm shouldn't freeze, the Weather Service said.

Reach Lisa Demer at or 257-4390.

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