Freezing temperatures Tuesday devastated Washington County's apricot and plum orchards and damaged apple trees, according to Steve Campbell, Utah State University Extension agent for Washington County.

Temperatures plummeted to 23 degrees Fahrenheit Tuesday morning in Hurricane, the center of Washington County's extensive fruit-growing area. Campbell said 28 degrees is generally killing temperature.Campbell said low temperatures March 10 hammered Washington County's fruit trees, and Tuesday's freeze gave apricot and plum trees a knockout punch. "Our apple trees were not as hard hit because their buds had not come out fully. But our apricots are already the size of your thumb and very susceptible to cold.

"I am going to check the orchards Wednesday. There is a possibility that some apricot trees escaped a total wipeout if there were winds, for instance, which help increase temperatures.

"I saw some orchards Tuesday afternoon where most of the apricot and plum trees had been destroyed by the cold, but some trees escaped with hardly any damage."

Fruit growers north of Salt Lake City survived Tuesday's cold, but Utah County's sweet cherry crop has suffered permanent damage, according to USU fruit specialist Anthony Hatch, Provo.

He said Wednesday that Utah County's sweet cherries suffered an early winter kill in January and were further damaged Tuesday.

"We had unseasonably warm temperatures in mid-December that brought on sweet cherry and peach buds early. Then, on Jan. 2, cold temperatures killed off many of the buds.

"Our peach crop appears to be OK, but I'm very concerned about Utah County's sweet cherries. Trees have budded up very heavy this year, and this week's cold spell could have wiped out a lot of our sweet cherry crop. I won't know until later this week how bad things are, though."