Florida farmers prepare for Hurricane Irma
Storm expected to make landfall this weekend
By Diego Flammini
Assistant Editor, North American Content
As Texans clean up after Hurricane Harvey, some focus has shifted to Florida as they prepare for a weekend storm.
Hurricane Irma, a category 5 storm currently damaging the Caribbean, is expected to hit Florida over the weekend.
And Governor Rick Scott is urging residents to take evacuation orders seriously.
“If you’re told to evacuate, get out quickly,” he said during a press briefing on Wednesday . “I cannot stress this enough. Do not ignore evacuation orders.”
But not everyone can leave the state and must instead brace for the storm’s impact.
Farmers throughout Florida are taking the necessary precautions to make sure they’re as ready as possible for Irma’s arrival.
“For the most part, farmers are just ready to batten down the hatches and do any typical pre-storm activities,” Brian Chapman, industry relations manager with Florida Dairy Farmers, told Farms.com yesterday.
“Farmers with freestyle barns are moving their cows into the fields, tying down pivots and anything that can blow away, getting equipment into barns and making sure generators are working.”
Florida is the nation’s leading state in terms of the production of orange, tomatoes, watermelons, grapefruit and other fruit crops.
But some farmers could have their entire winter crop wiped out before it gets a chance to grow.
Sweet Life Farms, for example, has sheeting laid down on 500 acres to keep the plants safe from pests, and warm, during the winter.
But if Hurricane Irma blows that away, “we won’t have a crop,” Andy McDonald, manager of Sweet Life Farms, told Bloomberg yesterday. Hurricane Irma “will cripple a lot of communities.”
Irma is expected to bring 142 mph winds and up to 20 inches of rain when it hits on Saturday.
And even Florida ranchers, who have dealt with this kind of weather before, are bracing for the worst.
“Our ranchers are no strangers to hurricanes in the past, but I think people are concerned with some of the stuff they’ve seen out of Texas,” Dusty Holley, director of field services with Florida Cattlemen’s Association, told Farms.com yesterday.
And Florida’s landscape means the possibility of flash flooding, like that seen in Texas during Hurricane Harvey, is low, Holley said.
Like their dairy colleagues, ranchers are preparing for Irma.
“They’re making sure fences are in good order and that their chainsaws are working,” Holley said. “A lot of times after the hurricane is when cattlemen’s work really starts – to clear downed trees and stuff like that.”
Ranchers are also stocking up on supplies in the event they’re “alone for a while,” according to Holley.
“A lot of them live in remote locations and aren’t the first ones to have their power lines fixed. They’re getting ready to spend some time in isolation and care for their animals.”
Current weather paths suggest Irma could also hit parts of Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas.
Top photo: Hurricane Irma/NASA