Category 4 Hurricane Florence is expected to make landfall on the East Coast late Thursday or early Friday, and pig farmers are rushing to get ready.
Brad Rippey, USDA meteorologist, says the storm could do the kind of damage to the mid-Atlantic region that Hurricane Harvey did to eastern Texas last year. That puts the majority of North Carolina’s hog farmers right in the path of the storm.
Hog farmers will likely remember the impacts of Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
“There are some differences between Floyd and Florence,” Rippey says. “Floyd for example came in from a southerly direction and moved through fairly quickly. But the area that was impacted may be fairly similar to what we see with Florence this year.
“Floyd did dump over 20” of rain across eastern North Carolina. One of the biggest impacts was the mortality of tens of thousands of hogs and pigs and that also overran waste ponds. And so there was a lot of water pollution that got into the waterways through eastern North Carolina. Not to mention the tens of thousands of dead animals that producers are trying to deal with. So that is one target zone there in eastern North Carolina.”
One difference compared with Hurricane Harvey, Rippey adds, is the mountainous terrain—which might create more flooding as the wind drops precipitation on the coastal area.
The Hurricane Center has been warning of “increasing risk of life-threatening impacts from Florence,” which is about 575 miles southeast of Bermuda, according to an advisory released Monday at 12 p.m. ET.
Governors of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia have declared state of emergencies and have suspended transportation rules for farmers in some cases.
“With the potential impact of Tropical Storm Florence next week and the threat of severe economic loss of livestock, poultry and crops, I appreciate Gov. Cooper issuing a state of emergency for North Carolina,” said Steve Troxler, North Carolina agriculture commissioner. ”At my recommendation and as allowed by state law, the Governor has directed the Department of Public Safety to temporarily suspend weighing vehicles used to transport livestock, poultry, feed and crops in the emergency area. The order also waives the maximum hours of service allowed for people transporting essential fuels, food, water, medicine, feed for livestock and poultry and those transporting livestock, poultry and crops ready for harvest.
If Florence maintains its strength, it would be the first Category 4 hurricane to hit the area since Hugo landed near Charleston in 1989 with 20’ high storm surge.