Gulf Citrus Growers Gain Hurricane Insights

Josh McGillGulf, hurricane, Weather

The Gulf Citrus Growers Association (GCGA) hosted its annual meeting in Fort Myers in early June to tend to association business and elect new board members. The event was well attended, and growers were mostly in good spirits buoyed by observations that HLB therapies might be having positive impacts on trees.

Gulf Citrus Growers
The Gulf Citrus Growers Association’s annual meeting was well attended in early June.

Ron Mahan, current GCGA president, captured that sentiment in his comments to the group. “It feels like we are on the edge of a cliff right now. But we have folks with ropes holding on to us to keep us from falling over,” he said. “I think we are on the verge of a new production management scheme where plant growth regulators and trunk injection (HLB therapies) are part of our normal practices.”

During the meeting, Mahan turned over the president role to Hendry County grower Wayne Simmons of LaBelle Fruit Co. Danny Sutton of Alico, Inc. was elected vice president. Rob Atchley of A. Duda & Sons, Inc. was named secretary, and Dale Johnson of JEBCO Groves became the association’s treasurer.

Allyson Rae, chief meteorologist for Fort Myers-based NBC 2, was the keynote speaker during the event. She shared insights on what might be expected from tropical systems and hurricanes in the coming years.

Gulf Citrus Growers
NBC 2 Chief Meteorologist Allyson Rae said tropical systems are slowing down, which could mean a lot more rain in future hurricanes.

Her main take-home message was that the biggest impact from future storms will be surge and more rain. She noted that hurricanes are slowing down as they cross Florida. That means they have more time to dump more rain. In fact, she said a 10% slower hurricane has the potential to double rainfall amounts.

While she said not all tropical storms are slow, on average they have slowed down by 17% worldwide. Storms in the Atlantic Basin are sometimes up 20% slower.

While storm categories and wind speeds capture people’s attention, Rae said growers and all Floridians need to account for potential rainfall and flooding. She said weather patterns may help this season, but she reminded attendees that it only takes one storm to cause a catastrophe.

“We are seeing signs the El Niño will occur, and that’s good,” Rae said. “We like El Niño because it creates a lot of wind shear … It will make a storm harder to form. But there will be a storm that will have time to develop.”

She said 1992 was an El Niño year, and the first named storm didn’t occur until August. That storm was Andrew.

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Frank Giles


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