By Amir Rezazadeh
Every year, hurricanes and tropical storms can occur in Florida from June 1 to Nov. 30. Hurricanes and tropical storms damage citrus trees by blowing fruit off trees or from flooding due to too much rain or high tides. Also, high tides due to wind may cause rising water levels and saltwater flooding.
The best practice for growers to minimize their losses is to have a hurricane plan prior to the event. It is best to develop a plan well before the start of hurricane season. The plan should be for both protection and recovery from storms.
Before a hurricane, growers should consider practices to protect the people, equipment and supplies that will be required during the recovery period. Make a list of all tasks that will need to be done and make sure that all managers know their responsibilities before, during and after a hurricane. Every year, all employees need to update their contact information prior to hurricane season so that managers can contact them in emergency situations.
Although protecting trees from storm wind is difficult, pruning trees regularly and establishing windbreaks are good practices that growers should consider in order to minimize storm damage. Keeping ditches clean and pumped down will help to maximize water removal efforts after the hurricane. Make sure all emergency equipment, such as generators, chain saws, torches, air compressors and tractors are available and in good working order for use after a hurricane. Any hazardous material such as pesticide or gas should be secured prior to a storm.
After a hurricane, inspect trees and equipment for possible damage. If roads are blocked due to flooding, downed trees or electrical poles, clear the roads to conduct better recovery activities. To prevent any root damage by flooding and insufficient oxygen, remove excess water from tree root zones within 72 hours after a hurricane.
Amir Rezazadeh is a multi-county fruit and field crops Extension agent at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences St. Lucie County Extension office in Fort Pierce.
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