Hurricane Preparedness on the Farm - 2020

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Published 3rd September 2020, 3:0pm

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season forecast has been released and calls for the number of named storms and hurricanes. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast calls for a likely range of 13 to 19 named storms of which six to 10 could become hurricanes, including three to six major hurricanes. The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season saw 18 named storms, six of which were hurricanes, including three major storms. A major hurricane is one that is Category 3 or stronger on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.*

After the devastation of hurricanes Ivan and Paloma, local farms slowly but steadily were restored to the pre hurricane levels with much dedication and time of both the farmers and the staff of the Department. However, we would like to take this opportunity to remind farmers of preparation procedures that cane be done when getting ready for an approaching storm to minimize crop and livestock losses.

The following hints are by no means exhaustive. Some, such as the pruning of fruit trees and repairs to live-stock pens etc., should be looked after NOW as a matter of routine maintenance and farm husbandry practices. Remember the saying “A stitch in time saves nine”.

Fruit Trees — Cut off all low hanging, dead, and unproductive limbs and branches. Hurricane pre-paredness notwithstanding the rainy season is the best time of the year for the pruning fruit trees. The greater the resistance of a tree to high winds, the easier it is for that tree to be uprooted.

Bananas and Plantains — With the issuance of a HURRICANE WARNING, it is recommended that farmers chop down all bananas and plantain plants - main stem and suckers - as near to ground level as possible. It is less costly to lose a few bunches and farms will be back in production sooner than if the whole cultivation is uprooted by hurricane force winds.

Trellised plants — The plants should be laid flat on the ground and secured if possible, or simply cut them back.

Seeds — All seeds should be packed in plastic bags and secured in a dry location.

Water Tanks — Tanks that are used for irrigation purposes should be secured or filled up with water to prevent them from being damaged or blown away.

Pesticides — Pesticides should be packed in water proof containers and along with fertilizers, stored in a secure out-building to prevent them from getting wet and contaminated.

Shade Houses — Remove screens and plastic from shade houses if possible, as it will be easier to replace if the screen is not damaged.

Adult Livestock — Adult livestock have inbred instincts that would enable them to survive a hurricane, provided that their movement is not physically restrained. Ideally, livestock should be turned loose in pastures that are not prone to flooding or swept by storm surges.

Young Livestock — Where possible, young stock two months or less should be securely penned with their mother, or otherwise turned loose in a safe and sheltered area that is not prone to flooding or storm surge.

Chickens — Chickens and other domestic livestock should be placed in a safe cage, box or pen that is above possible flood level. Baby chicks however should be kept indoors in a warm dry place.

Pigs — Adult pigs are best kept in their pens. Pig pens are never totally enclosed and therefore are of minimal resistance to high winds. Driving cold rain however could be a serious treat to piglets that are under five weeks old. Where possible, piglets should be confined to a dry and secured area.

General — Most animals and birds have an inbred instinct for sensing the approach of a natural phenomenon such as a hurricane. If restrained, animals will exhibit a restless or nervous behavior. Do not further agitate animals by rough handling, but rather, handling in a calm, firm, and gentle manner. Ensure an adequate supply of clean drinking water, and stock up on sack feed for use after a hurricane. Ponds, watering holes and pastures may become contaminated by salt water during a hurricane, and may remain so far a considerable period thereafter.

Farm Buildings — Secure loose boards and roofing sheets which can become dangerous missiles during a hurricane. That extra nail, screw or bolt could mean the difference of a farm building receiving zero damage, total or disintegration during a hurricane.

Pastures — Remove, store and/or secure feed and watering troughs i.e. half drums, bath tubs etc. These can become dangerous missiles. Where it is possible to secure these, fill them with heavy rock to stop them blowing away. Inspect fence posts to ensure that they are properly anchored in the ground. Loose fence posts can become dangerous projectiles during a hurricane.

*Source: hurricane-season-predicted-for-2020