Hurricane Florence is currently on track to slam into North Carolina — at “best” as a strong Category 3, but possibly even as a Category 5. This will be a catastrophic event, and there hasn’t been this much trepidation and concern about a storm since Hurricane Harvey tore into the Texas area about this time last year. Southeast farmers are among those bracing for Florence, and it’s understandable why.
As of early Tuesday, the U.S. tracking model put out by the NOAA was showing the storm slamming into the North Carolina coast. Other trajectories also highlight North Carolina as the highest probability of getting a direct hit, while suggesting that spots such as Georgia and Virginia aren’t fully out of the woods as a landfall site. Regardless of where the storm lands, there are widespread projections — particularly across South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia — for anywhere from several inches to up to 2 feet of rainfall. States of emergency have been declare in all three of these places.
Hitting these states mean that there are a variety of commodities that can be affected, such as tobacco and soybeans in North Carolina, broilers and corn in South Carolina, and cattle and dairy in Virginia, just to name a few. For comparison, when Harvey hit Texas, there was more than $200 million worth of farm-related losses, including $93 million in losses to the livestock industry and almost $100 million in cotton.
Virginia Tech, a land-grant institution, has put together the following tips for preparing farms for major storms:
- Store or secure items or equipment that could blow away.
- Check generators to be sure they are in good working order and secure a sufficient amount of fuel to operate them.
- Turn off the propane supply at tanks.
- Secure propane tanks in the event of flooding to prevent them from floating away.
- Move equipment to the highest open ground possible, away from trees or buildings that could cause damage.
- Secure pesticide storage areas. Farmers in low-lying areas should elevate or move pesticides to locations that are less likely to flood.
- Identify places to relocate animals from low-lying areas.
- Mark animals with an identifier so they can be easily returned if lost. For example, use ear tags with the name of the farm and phone numbers, brands, paint markings on hooves or coat, or clipped initials in the hair.
- Move feed to higher ground or to a more accessible place in case of flooding or transportation problems.
- Coordinate with neighbors beforehand and discuss what resources can be shared.
- Keep a list of important phone numbers in order to make calls following a storm. For example, compile numbers for the local emergency management office, county Extension agent, county Farm Service Agency, and your insurance agent and veterinarian.
- Monitor local weather reports for up-to-the-minute information on storms.
North Carolina’s Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company has put hurricane procedures in place for the entire state and is encouraging farmers to reach out to insurance agents and local Farm Bureau offices as soon as it’s safe to assess any damage.
In South Carolina, corn harvest (totaling 310,000 acres and valued at more than $187 million) is underway and presents the largest concern statewide. According to the state’s Farm Bureau office, by having a couple of days’ notice, farmers have been working around the clock to get their crop in as quickly as possible. As of last week, about 37 percent of the state’s corn crop had yet to be harvested.
The office is also encouraging all farmers to lower their farm ponds to help mitigate extra stress on dams.
Farmers, ranchers, and the public as a whole, please do your best to be safe. Landfall is expected sometime Thursday or Friday.
Be warned: In the immediate aftermath of devastating storms and other tragedies, lots of phony “charities” or pleas for money and donations crop up. If you are considering donating to a group you haven’t heard of before or to a fund that isn’t administered by a reliable source, please check out the list of legitimate charities on Charity Navigator to make sure that you’re not getting scammed.