By Eileen Bailey

Daily Journal

Many ornamental plants and fruit trees should come through a predicted cold snap without much damage, according to a local nurseryman.

Colder temperatures are expected to return to Northeast Mississippi today and continue through the weekend. These colder temperatures follow on the heels of recent warm weather that had tricked many plants into blooming.

Bob Marion, co-owner of Mid-South Nursery and Garden Center on Coley Road in Tupelo, said Wednesday that if predicted cold temperatures and wintry precipitation strikes the area most ornamental flowers and trees already beginning to bloom should fair fine.

The plant that could be hurt most is the Japanese Magnolia, which produces striking white-and-purple blooms. Many of these trees have begun to bloom in the area and because of their large, curved petals any precipitation that accumulates could strip the blooms, Marion said.

Other ornamental trees, such as Bradford pears, should be all right.

Flowers such as daffodils, tulips and hyacinth "can take the cold," Marion said. If residents want to cover these plants, they can do so at night, but Marion cautioned that cover should be removed at daylight. Plastics and other covers can have a greenhouse affect and cause plants to become burned, he said.

Fruit trees, such as apples, pears and plums, should also fair fine during the cold snap. "I don't think fruit trees are very far along," Marion said.

Snow possible

Heavier precipitation, such as ice, could damage branches, but a spokeswoman for the National Weather Service in Memphis said mostly snow is called for tonight and Friday.

If warmer weather had continued and the cold snap occurred about seven days later, many plants and some fruit trees could have been in danger of damage, Marion said.

Plants in other parts of the state, such as Jackson, could face more damage because more ornamental trees further south have come into full bloom, he said.

Vegetables, such as cabbage and onions, that are in season now may not be hurt.

Many trees and flowers have begun to bloom after about a week of warm temperatures.

Pam Gresham, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Memphis, said a record high was set last Friday at 84 degrees. This broke the record of 80 on the same day in 1930. The average highs for the last week were in the mid-70s, she said.

But colder temperatures are easing back into the area, with lows predicted in the 20s tonight. There will be a 40 percent chance of light snow tonight with no accumulation expected, Gresham said. On Friday, there will be a 50 percent of light snow or a wintry mix with less than an inch of accumulation, she said.

The highs on Friday will be in the low 30s and the lows in the low 20s. Clouds will begin to decrease Saturday and highs will be in the low 40s. Saturday's lows are predicted in the upper teens. Temperatures will be about the same on Sunday, Gresham said.

Strong winds

On Tuesday, heavy rains and thunderstorms moved into Northeast Mississippi ahead of the cold front. Strong winds destroyed a vacant trailer on state Highway 25 in Tishomingo Tuesday night.

Tishomingo Volunteer Fire Chief Larry Strickland was at the front door of his parents' home when the winds lifted the single-wide trailer from the ground, reportedly flipping it at least three times.

"The weather officials are saying all we had in this area was strong winds, but I think it might have been a tornado," Strickland said. "My parents and I heard what sounded like a train, and you know what that means. I think we were hit by a tornado."

The trailer was owned by Strickland's brother, John B. Strickland Jr., who had planned to rent it.

The home of their parents, John B. Strickland and Willard Strickland, was also damaged by the high winds.

"We patched the roof for now, but we're going to have to have it reroofed," Larry Strickland said.

The roofs of several other homes in the area were also lightly damaged.

Staff writer Monique Harrison contributed to this report.

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