Hurricane Preparedness for Citrus Groves: Part 1

Josh McGillhurricane, Tip of the Week

By Mongi Zekri, Robert E. Rouse and Jonathan H. Crane

Growers look forward to the rainy season because it helps their young trees grow fast and their mature trees produce good crops. However, along with the anticipation of the rainy season, there is also the reality that tropical storms or hurricanes may bring too much rain and wind, causing devastations to citrus groves.

While a hurricane has the potential to inflict heavy damage on any grove, growers who have developed hurricane preparedness plans prior to the event have the best chance of minimizing losses. They will be prepared to save groves by quickly replanting uprooted and blown-over trees and by removing excess water within 72 hours to avoid root damage caused by suffocation from lack of oxygen.

hurricane preparedness
To prevent root damage, excess water should be removed within 72 hours after a storm.

Although hurricanes can strike at any time during the June–November period, they are most likely to occur in August and September, at the end of the rainy season when the soil and water retention areas are least able to accommodate more water. The hurricane preparedness plan should provide protection from a storm and recovery after a storm. Little can be done to protect trees and fruit from wind, but growers can take steps to protect the people, equipment and supplies that will be needed in the recovery process. This includes having adequate insurance for groves, buildings and equipment.

A major part of the hurricane plan is ensuring that all managers know their responsibilities prior to, during and after a hurricane. Make a list of all tasks that will need to be performed so there are no last-minute, unanticipated gaps to plug. Identify and maintain an updated list of the members of a damage inspection team, which will determine where storm damage occurred and how extensive it is. Specific workers should be assigned to fix ditches, prop up trees, clear roadways and perform other tasks after the storm. Make sure you know how to contact workers at their place of safety, and that they have a way to call in after the storm.

Next week’s tip will share more preparation ideas.

Mongi Zekri is a multi-county University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension citrus agent based in Labelle. Robert E. Rouse is a UF/IFAS retired associate professor. Jonathan H. Crane is associate center director, professor and tropical fruit crop specialist at UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead.