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Virginia farmers should prepare now for 2019 hurricane season

hurricane season
Credit: bkindler

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting a near normal hurricane season for 2019.

An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three potential major hurricanes. Many Virginia farmers will tell you that just one small hurricane is one too many. Weather can impact farmers in a variety of ways, but the powerful winds and flooding rains of hurricanes can be disastrous for farmers, their families and livestock.

As June 1 is the official start of hurricane season, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) encourages farmers to act now and take the following precautions to help protect their families, farm operations and livestock.

  • Monitor local weather reports for up-to-the-minute storm information.
  • Prepare your household by creating an emergency kit with flashlights, batteries, drinking water for humans and pets, medications, emergency numbers, first aid kit, dust masks and a supply of food to last 3 or 4 days.
  • Make a communications plan that identifies your evacuation routes to where your family will meet and how everyone would get there should you need to evacuate.
  • Charge cell phone batteries and have extra batteries for radios.
  • Store or secure items or equipment that may blow away or become dangerous projectiles.
  • Inspect all barns, outbuildings and other structures for broken or weak components and make repairs before the storm hits.
  • Stock up on food and water as well as feed and supplies for livestock supplies so that you are self-sustainable for at least three days.
  • Secure livestock and other animals. If necessary, build berms for them to stand on in low-lying areas.
  • Stock up on nails, screws and plywood to board up windows and nail doors and windows shut.
  • If your operation uses vent fans, water pumps, milking machines or other critical electrical equipment, purchase a gas-powered generator and plenty of fuel.
  • Ensure a source of clean water is available so livestock will not have to drink flood water.
  • Store fertilizers, pesticides, treated seeds and other such compounds up high and away from floodwaters and animals.
  • Do not drive across any flooded roadway, as it only takes six inches of water to move a vehicle and roads may be washed out beneath the floodwaters.
  • Mark animals with an identifier so they can be returned if lost.  This can include ear tags with name of farm and/or phone numbers, brands, paint markings on hooves or coat, or clipped initials in the hair.
  • Know your local emergency managers, including the sheriff and animal control officer. They are in charge during a disaster.
  • If strong winds knock down trees, make farm lanes and houses accessible to delivery vehicles as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • Coordinate with neighbors before the storm to discuss what resources can be shared in the event of power outages or flooding.
  • For more emergency preparation tips, please visit

“The hurricanes of 2018 demonstrated that these storms can impact agriculture in Virginia several days after making landfall. I encourage all Virginia farmers to plan and take precautions now to safeguard their families, livestock and farms in the event of severe weather,” said Dr. Jewel Bronaugh, VDACS’ Commissioner. “Farms are asset-heavy with expensive buildings, equipment, animals and other tools of the trade, so proper planning and taking precautions now may save thousands of dollars in property loss. Preparation is especially important for horse owners as their size and the special equipment needed to transport horses make them difficult to move.”

VDACS offers the following tips for effectively preparing horse owners in areas prone to hurricane damage:

  • Be sure your horse’s vaccinations for tetanus and the encephalitis viruses (Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus) are current.
  • Be sure that your horse has multiple forms of identification.
  • Store the record for the microchip number, if present, in an accessible location. VDACS also recommends keeping a second copy of this information with a family member or friend in a distant location but where it will be easily accessible.
  • Coastal residents should consider evacuating horses to a sufficient distance from the coast and out of a storm’s path.

VDACS also encourages pesticide applicators, particularly those in Eastern Virginia, to secure their pesticide storage areas. Applicators in low-lying areas should attempt to elevate or move pesticides to locations that are less likely to flood. Pest control companies should postpone termiticide pre-treatments for slab structures if torrential rains are predicted in their areas. Termiticides need time to bond with the soil before getting wet.