Singer/songwriter and King of the Parrotheads Jimmy Buffett once wrote about the futility of trying to reason with hurricane season. However, there are certainly steps growers can take to prepare for storm damage. This particular hurricane season was a rough one, with Hurricanes Harvey and Irma crushing Texas and Florida and affecting many others throughout the Southeast U.S.

The Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association is no stranger to hurricanes. The group provides its members with resources to help them prepare for the worst storms Mother Nature can cook up. Here are a few tips.

1 | Long before the storm

Make sure the nursery infrastructure is in good maintenance. Clear ditches free of weeds and debris so maximum drainage can occur. Make sure your interior roads are in good repair to allow access to all areas of the nursery.

Make sure all buildings are in good repair. Make sure all windows, doors, siding and roofing are secured. Once wind gets under loose building materials, they will rip off. Evaluate whether you should remove greenhouse and shade structure coverings prior to a storm. Is it better to let the roofs and sides be torn off or allow for less resistance? Each grower must make his/her own decisions.

Make sure all equipment is serviced and adequate supplies are on hand. For days to weeks after a hurricane, normal deliveries may be disrupted. Make sure you have fuel and other supplies you may need. Consider having minimal building materials on hand to repair structures. Make sure you have a supply of potting soil, fungicides, etc.

Make arrangements for power. Power lines may be disabled for days or weeks jeopardizing your irrigation systems. Develop a plan for irrigation, running office functions, running propagation areas, etc.

Make sure you have crop insurance. Crop insurance is a requirement to participate in any federal disaster programs. You must sign up for the program well before a storm threatens, because there is a 30-day hold.

2 | Immediately before the storm

Secure all loose items. Secure nursery containers, stakes, etc. Tie down anything possible. Loose items become missiles. Secure all equipment in an area not likely to be damaged.

Lay down plant material. Winds in excess of 100 mph will strip foliage from plant materials. Plants may be blown down anyway, so they may survive better if you lay them parallel to the expected wind direction. Water plants fully prior to a storm.

Have emergency numbers. Make sure you have the numbers of your crop and property insurance agents, USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency, local police, fire and other emergency contacts.

Inventory your plants and equipment. This will help in the event you need to file a claim or determine the damage you have. Also, it will allow recovery of some lost items. Consolidate the serial numbers on your equipment.

Establish a means to communicate with your employees. Your employees will need to know what you expect of them after the storm. Do you want them to come to work, to call you, or stay with their families? Communications may be disrupted for days. Make your plan before a storm strikes.

3 | After the storm

Secure your structures and buildings. Make any necessary repairs to your structures so they are secure from the weather and intrusion.

Take care of your plant material. Stand up all plant material as quickly as possible to prevent burning from laying in the sun. Re-stake material as quickly as possible. Irrigate to flush any salt residue. The closer to the coast you are, the more important this is. The force of hurricane winds can carry salt spray for miles. Replant any material needing it. Prune to correct any damage.

Notify the proper authorities in the event of storm damage. Notify the local police or sheriff’s department of any road obstructions or hazardous situations. Notify your electric company of any downed lines or power outages so they can get your request in their repair sequences. Report water, sewer or gas line breaches to the appropriate authority.

If necessary, notify disaster assistance agencies of your needs. If you have crop insurance, you may qualify for disaster assistance or low-cost loans. Contact the appropriate agency as soon as possible for instruction.

Notify your customers of your situation. As quickly as possible, let your customers know how well you survived the storm and when you anticipate servicing their accounts.

Photograph and document damage before you start clean-up.

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