Hurricane Preparation and Recovery: Key Points

Ernie NeffAll In For Citrus Podcast, hurricane

Hurricane Irma uprooted Florida citrus trees in 2017.

Multi-county citrus Extension agent Ajia Paolillo recently suggested ways to prepare for and recover from a hurricane.

Hurricane season began June 1 and ends Nov. 30. Paolillo said hurricane activity is usually most prevalent from August to October. She cited an August update from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration predicting 15 to 21 tropical storms this summer, with 7 to 10 expected to become hurricanes.

Paolillo emphasized that personal safety — “ourselves, our families, our employees” — should be the top concern to citrus growers when a hurricane approaches.

Well before a hurricane arrives, growers should ensure they have an adequate supply of everything they’ll need during and after the storm, Paolillo suggested. That includes spare parts for equipment and irrigation systems, fuel for pumps, and safe drinking water for grove workers. She also recommended having enough grove supplies to last two weeks after the hurricane.

Prior to a hurricane, growers should ensure drainage areas are cleared of vegetation and sediment to aid in water removal from groves. Buildings should be secured, with electrical breakers and power switches properly labeled so they can be found easily during and after the storm.  

As the hurricane gets close, “You’re going to want to start pulling stuff inside of buildings if you can,” Paolillo said. That includes securing pesticides, other chemicals and even large equipment if possible.

Immediately after a hurricane, ensure all employees are safe, then assign recovery duties and assess grove damage, Paolillo said.

Flood water in the grove should be removed as quickly as possible, certainly within 72 hours in an effort to prevent root damage. Fallen trees should be righted immediately, and individual protective covers should be quickly replaced on young trees.

Paolillo discussed other steps to take after the storm, including observing for root damage, monitoring for citrus canker spread, and proper irrigation and fertilization.

Growers should have good grove records that are up to date at all times, Paolillo suggested. Tree, equipment, supply and building inventories, along with harvest and revenue records, will help when filing insurance claims and with potential disaster assistance programs.   

A grove emergency action plan is required by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Paolillo said. A written plan is required for growers with 10 or more employees. A verbally communicated plan is acceptable for those with less than 10 employees. Among other things, that plan should describe employees’ responsibilities and required licensing or training.  

This interview with Paolillo was featured in the August All In For Citrus podcast, a joint project of UF/IFAS and AgNet Media. Listen to the full podcast here.

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large

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