NC Commissioner Steve Troxler: Preparing Your Farm for Hurricanes, Severe Weather

The Tropics have been active in recent weeks, with tropical storms developing and moving through the Caribbean and Gulf. It is a good reminder that there are some things you can do to prepare your family, pets and farms for severe weather before it even gets here.

  • We have seen the activity level pick up in the tropics of late with the development of Tropical Storms Gonzalo and Hanna.
  • These storms are a great reminder that there are things you can do to prepare your family, your pets and your farm. Honestly, I hope we don’t have to employ any of these tips this year, but it never hurts to refresh our memory about things to do.
  • There are short- and long-term considerations to keep in mind.
  • Whenever bad weather is imminent it is important to:
    • Tune in to local radio weather reports.
    • Designate crews to begin preparations for the storm–after securing their own homes.
    • Have all phone numbers ready to call for help after the storm. Cell phones make this easier, but it may be helpful to have a book of important numbers as a backup. This may include the county extension agent, insurance agents, county Farm Service Agency and private veterinarian.
    • Charge all electronic equipment, such as cell phones, tablets and laptop computers in case electricity goes out.
    • Store items inside that may blow away.
    • Turn off propane and natural gas.
    • Shut off unnecessary electric power to avoid surges.
    • Move pesticides and fertilizers to higher ground.
    • Move your equipment into the middle of a large open field or pasture. Keeping equipment away from buildings and trees that may blow over can prevent loss. Tie down any lightweight equipment. Don’t park equipment in areas that may flood. Have fuel and batteries ready.
    • Make sure you know where local shelters are, in case you, your family and workers need to evacuate.
    • Make sure every animal has durable and visible identification.
    • Ensure that poultry have access to high areas in which to perch, if they are in a flood-prone area, as well as to food and clean water.
  • There are some additional things to prepare for tobacco farms.
    • If you have an emergency generator, have it fueled and ready to go.
    • If you don’t have back-up power, watch the weather carefully. If a large, damaging hurricane is imminent, turn the heat off in the barns and run fans to remove as much heat as possible. If the power goes off before the barns are cool, open all doors and vents as soon as possible to allow for additional cooling. Tobacco in cooled barns fares better after long periods without power.
    • If tobacco is still in the fields when a hurricane or heavy rains are predicted, top everything as quickly as possible with mechanical toppers or hand labor. Spray sucker control if you have time before the rain starts. Tobacco that has been topped does not blow over as easily.
  • Some longer-term items include:
    • Determine what equipment you will need and have a plan for it – Consider securing a generator, fuel and a hand fuel pump, water and feed, a weather radio, and an emergency preparedness kit with flashlight, fire extinguishers, batteries, etc.
    • Look for property preparations you could do to minimize damage and risk? Examples include:
      • clear debris from drainage ditches so water can run freely.
      • Check power line clearance; some of the greatest hurricane damage is from downed power lines and long power outages. See if trees need pruning or removing.
      • Survey your buildings to see if you need to trim or cut down trees too near your barns or home. Check for old, damaged trees and consider removal before a storm.
      • Check the condition of the buildings; a few extra nails or tighter hurricane strapping can limit further damage.
      • Clear away all debris that could blow in high winds.
      • Secure any signage.
      • Have photos of valuable items stored off site; store all business records above flood level, at least two feet off the floor.
    • Review your business
      • Review your insurance policies. Be sure you have adequate coverage for homeowners, vehicles, farm buildings and structures, crops and flood. Learn the different types of wind, hail and catastrophic insurance coverages. Find out if your policy covers wind set up charges. Have all agents’ contact information ready.
      • Review your debt level. Do you have unpaid debts that would go unpaid if you lost 50 percent of your crop in one year?
      • Review your finances. Do you have a cash reserve you could use to replace a loss of income?
      • Develop an emergency plan for your family and your crew. Be sure everyone knows where to meet, and preparation and recovery duties are prioritized and assigned.
    • Having a plan and talking about it with your workers and family members is the best bet.
    • Again, I hope that we won’t need any of this advice, but it is better to be safe than sorry.