Worst weather for 30 years: Jersey blizzards prompt potato fears

 

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The severe blizzard conditions and strong gale force winds in Jersey, normally regarded as one of the warmest parts of the British Isles, have not been seen since 1979.

Even in the depths of winter, the Channel Island usually stays mild, with average daytime temperatures in January sticking at around 9C (48F).

But today islanders were contending with snowfall of up to 10cm and shivering in temperatures of 0C (32F) with gusts of up to 65mph adding to the windchill factor.

For devotees of perhaps the island's most famous export, Jersey Royal potatoes, there might be a more serious consequence to the recent bad weather.

It has emerged that the cold spell will have an impact on when Jersey Royals will reach shop shelves this year in any great volume.

The main outdoor crop is planted from January to April, with harvesting beginning in April through to the end of June. But the unfavourable weather conditions will lead to delays, it has been said.

William Church, of the Jersey Royal Company Ltd, said growers have been hit by a “double whammy” of the wettest winter for some 50 years and the recent low temperatures.

He said: “It will have an impact insofar as what has been planted already will not grow in this weather, but also this weather means we can't plant at the moment.

“It's a bit of a double whammy. There is not going to be any real volume of Jersey Royals until May-time.”

Grown for more than 130 years, Jersey Royals enjoy EU protection of designation of origin in the same way that France was granted sole use of the word 'champagne'.

Mr Church added: “We continue to monitor the situation closely, and things can change dramatically, but at the moment the season is probably running two weeks late.”

Meanwhile, around 200 homes in Jersey suffered power supply problems as 20 overhead power cables were damaged by flying debris, falling trees and icing in the blizzard conditions.

Officials at Jersey Electricity compared the disruption to that seen in the aftermath of the Great Storm in 1987, with St Lawrence and St Peter the worst affected parishes.

Tony Pallot, principal meteorologist at the Jersey Met Office, said the last time the island experienced such severe blizzard conditions and strong gusts was in 1979.

He said: “It's quite unusual to go in the past week to temperatures of up to 15C to really snowy conditions as we've come through the weekend to today.

“We normally get snow here every two to three years on average, and when we do see it, it normally tends to be very short-lived.

“What's unusual about today is that we've got a lot of heavy snow as well as blizzard conditions, whereas we would normally see snow but without the strong winds.”

Mr Pallot said the conditions are due to ease off by tomorrow morning. Jersey Electricity energy division director David Padfield said: “Our teams are doing everything they can to restore supplies.

“The problems are often in isolated areas and conditions are very difficult out there.”

PA

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