As Hurricane Sandy Threatens East Coast, Farmers Need to Prepare Now

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) urges all farmers to prepare ahead of time for power outages, structural or crop damage, insurance claims and damage that could accompany Hurricane Sandy. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management is already warning citizens of Sandy’s approach, and VDACS urges farmers to pay close attention to those warnings.

“At this point Sandy’s path is still uncertain,” said Matthew J. Lohr, VDACS Commissioner, “but farmers need to pay close attention and start preparing their farms NOW as the storm begins its path up the East Coast. It appears that Sandy will not be a hit-and-run storm but one that could last from Sunday through Wednesday and even beyond. That makes preparation now even more important.”

Long-range preparations can include purchasing or making rental agreements for special equipment, making adjustments to property and reviewing business arrangements. Short-range preparations should focus on immediate concerns such as turning off propane, moving livestock or equipment to safe places or updating phone numbers for emergency assistance.

Equipment needs may include a generator, fuel, a hand fuel pump, fire extinguishers, first aid kits, a flashlight and batteries, NOAA weather radio and batteries, stored water and feed for humans and livestock and a camera to document damage. Photos of agricultural losses are very helpful to the USDA, especially with their livestock indemnity programs.

Tobacco farms or nursery operations with greenhouses, dairies, and hog and poultry operations are especially vulnerable if power remains out for a lengthy period. Those farmers may want to purchase a generator, and the sooner the better. Farmers who cannot purchase a generator should consider leasing or negotiating a rental arrangement for a back-up generator in advance. Be aware that some rental contracts are only for eight hours use per day.

Property preparations can include clearing debris from drainage ditches so water can run freely, checking power lines for clearance and pruning or removing trees that could fall on lines, surveying buildings for limbs or trees close to buildings and pounding in extra nails or tightening hurricane straps to prevent wind damage. Other precautions include clearing away all debris that could blow in high winds, securing farm signs and photographing valuable items and storing the pictures off site. Farmers and home owners alike should store all business records above flood level, which is generally at least two feet off the floor.

A final long-range preventive measure is reviewing business affairs, including insurance policies, debt level and finances. Farmers need to ensure they have adequate insurance coverage for homes, vehicles, farm buildings and structures, crops and flood damage.

Finally, farmers should develop an emergency plan for their families and their farm workers and should establish a meeting place where everyone can gather after a disaster.


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