The effects of the El Nino weather system that helped end California's three-year drought are still being felt in businesses and farms throughout Lodi. On average, days in May have been nearly five degrees cooler than normal, according to AccuWeather.com, a private forecasting firm.
This month has seen storms, gloomy skies and a wide fluctuation in temperatures that have affected growers and merchants throughout the region. Data collected at the Stockton MetropolitanAirport shows the high temperature for the month was 88 degrees and the low was 36 degrees, said Paul Walker, senior meteorologist for AccuWeather.
However, Walker said the unseasonably cool temperatures wouldn't linger much longer.
"We are coming out of El Nino, gong into La Nina, and the jet stream is suppressed to the south and keeping temperatures cool," Walker said.
He expects the trend to continue through the holiday weekend, but temperatures to pick up at the beginning of June.
Cool May changes dining plans
One local restaurant can't wait for the mercury to start rising.
Sam Rehmke has owned Lodi Beer Company in Downtown for the last 51/2 years. During the previous El Nino, the restaurant and brewery didn't have its patio built. The eight-table patio was installed in 2006.
Normally, May would mean a bustling patio for the restaurant, but gloomy skies and cooler temperatures have kept customers indoors.
"If people come in and it's not sunny, they aren't going to sit on the patio," said Rehmke, co-owner of Lodi Beer Company.
While people will make reservations and request a patio table, Rehmke said there is less activity now compared to previous Mays outside.
However, she has noticed a trend.
"Customers from out of town are more willing to sit outside," she said. "I guess they are more used to the weather."
Impact on agriculture
Local farmers have spent the month of May adjusting to the weather.
The cooler temperatures and rain is a mixed blessing for cherry growers, said Joe Cataldo, partner for J&M Farms. While the rain can breed mildew and diseases and delay the harvesting of the crops, the cooler days are less taxing on the field workers, he said.
Another cherry grower agreed.
"In cool weather, you can gradually pick all the trees and make passes through orchards," said Bruce Fry of Mohr-Fry Ranch.
Fry is set to start harvesting in his cherry orchards today. Cooler temperatures would enable cherry growers to stretch out their harvest period and ease the burden on packing houses around San Joaquin County so they wouldn't be burdened with an overabundance of produce.
"If it stays cool, it's good for everyone," he said.
Fry did lose 5 percent of his cherries to cracking from storms earlier this week, he said. Thursday, he and his employees were blowing compressed air on the trees to remove excess moisture and prevent further damage.
Cataldo uses Vapor Guard, a product he said is like Scotchgard for produce. He also has used a helicopter to slowly fly over his orchard to blow water off the trees.
"Taking precautions gives us peace of mind," he said.
Many cherry growers have had their harvest dates set back due to the cool weather, said San Joaquin County Agricultural Commissioner Scott Hudson.
"Usually Memorial Day weekend is the peak of cherry harvest," he said. "This year, we're not in full harvest until the first week of June. It's very unusual."
It's been decades since the cherry harvest was pushed back this much, he said.
Hudson isn't concerned about the late harvest, but said it could hurt area cherry farmers if their produce was arriving in stores at the same time as cherries from the Pacific Northwest.
"The harvests could overlap and there could be too much on the market in June. Such a situation could lower prices and hurt growers financially," he said.
However, El Nino has also pushed back harvest dates in Washington and Oregon, he said.
Other growers haven't had to worry as much.
Lockeford walnut grower Chris Locke won't start to harvest his crop until September, so this month hasn't negatively affected him.
"It's not catastrophic," he said of the cool month. "To an extent it will delay harvest, but we try to get done before Halloween and the heavy rains start."
The overcast skies in May didn't affect his pollination either. Unlike cherry and almond growers, Locke doesn't rely on bees who enjoy hot, sunny days to help his crop mature. Walnuts are self-fertile and rely on the wind, not bees, for pollination.
Fashion trends change with the weather
The weather is also affecting the local fashion industry.
"Our overall business is up, but when it comes to sandals and sleeveless dresses or Bermuda shorts, people are looking at them but passing them up," said Kay Mettler, owner of Spectator, a boutique on Kettleman Lane. "They are not ready for it."
The most popular items customers are purchasing at Spectator are accessories, such as bracelets and linen clothing. While linen is a breathable material that is suitable for warmer weather, Mettler said, the cuts and styles of clothing being purchased right now aren't common spring clothes.
Mettler can't pinpoint why business is up, but the items she traditionally sells this time of year aren't moving.
"It's one of those things you can't always figure out," she said.
That concept applies to predicting future weather patterns and determining when the next El Nino will arrive as well.
Walker studies ocean temperatures, weather patterns and the movement of the jet stream to make his forecasts. However, he can't say specifically when the next El Nino pattern is due. Prior to this year, the last El Nino system hit California at the end of 2004 and beginning of 2005.
On average, El Nino occurs every five years.
The earliest he would be able to predict its resurgence would be six months in advance, he said.
"It's like betting on black or red when playing roulette," he said.
Weather at a glance
According to AccuWeather, the average high temperature at the start of May is 77 degrees and the average low is 49 degrees. At the end of the month, 85 degrees is the average high and 55 degrees is the average low. The total average temperature for the month is 66.5 degrees. This May, the Lodi area is averaging temperatures 4.5 degrees below its historical average.
Lodi averages a half-inch of rain in May. This year the area has received a little more than a quarter of an inch as of May 25. All figures for temperatures and precipitation were recorded from the Stockton Metropolitan Airport.
Below is a breakdown of the last 10 years in the area:
May 2009: The area's average temperature was 3.2 degrees warmer than average and received 0.37 inches of precipitation.
May 2008: The average temperature was 0.8 degrees above normal. It was a dry May as the area received only 0.02 inches of precipitation.
May 2007: The average temperature for the month ran 2.4 degrees above normal. The area also received a paltry 0.04 inches of rain.
May 2006: The temperature was 1.5 degrees above normal, but it was an especially wet May as the area received 186 percent of its normal precipitation.
May 2005: The month was pretty much on average temperature-wise as it was only 0.4 degrees above normal in May. However, the area was soaked as it received 122 percent of its average rainfall.
May 2004: The month's average temperature was almost exactly on its average as it was only 0.3 degree above normal. The area received 38 percent of normal precipitation.
May 2003: The average temperature was 1 degree below normal and the area received 70 percent of its normal precipitation.
May 2002: The area was 1.1 degree colder than average and it received 0.4 inches of rain.
May 2001: The month was hot and dry as the average temperature was 6.3 degrees above normal and Lodi received no precipitation.
May 2000: The area was basically on average with heat as it was 0.3 above normal temperatures, but it was an especially wet May as the area was soaked with 136 percent of its average rainfall.