A day after Hurricane Irma exited Florida, Ray Royce, executive director of the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association, said, “Early anecdotal estimates are that half to two-thirds of the crop is on the ground in our area.”
He says that from the little bit he has been out and around in the Central Florida Ridge, he has not seen any orange trees out of the ground. However, there is much fruit on the ground. “From what I’ve heard, both earlies and lates are on the ground equally. Growers have shared with me that there is a lot of fruit on the ground,” says Royce. He notes that some trees he saw in the Lake Placid area “didn’t look that bad, but a lot of fruit was on the ground. I was surprised there weren’t more leaves blown off the trees.”
He says Hurricane Irma blew hard for a good eight to 10 hours in his area. “In Highlands County, we were right in the northeast quadrant of the thing. The eye passed just west of us.” The storm left behind flooding in low-lying areas with some local roads washed out, and nearly 100 percent of customers were left without power.
According to Royce, growers’ immediate efforts after the storm have focused on getting trees off of houses and cars and helping neighbors. “A lot of the guys brought their equipment in to help neighborhoods clear roads,” he says.
Since the storm, Royce has been in touch with Congressman Tom Rooney’s office and the Farm Service Agency (FSA). The hope is that FSA will move quickly in declaring an emergency disaster declaration. “Obviously, it will take some days and weeks to figure out if FSA or other federal or state agencies cam be of assistance or in what manner they can be of assistance,” concludes Royce.
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