Hurricane season is June 1 through November 30. As we have learned in recent years, powerful hurricanes can make their way inland and do considerable damage to forest and agricultural lands and enterprises. It’s never too early to start planning for a major hurricane that could make a direct hit on your land. There is no way to fully prepare for major devastation in advance, but there are some strategies and steps you can take to prepare you and your land for a major storm and recover more smoothly.
Connect with Professionals
Don’t go it alone. There are resources and services available to help with your land management activities, and these connections can give you a leg up in the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster.
Work with a Consulting Forester and Get a Forest Inventory
Consulting foresters provide technical assistance in all phases of forest management for a fee. Their services include management plan preparation, forest inventory, timber sales, thinning, tree planting, herbicide and fertilizer application, and prescribed burning. The expertise, guidance, and connections of a consultant can be invaluable in the recovery process after the storm. If you have a lot of value in standing timber, a forest inventory will provide a detailed account of that value, which can be important for documentation for financial assistance after a hurricane or other natural disaster.
Get Connected to Assistance before the Storm
Don’t wait for disaster to strike to contact the people and agencies that can help and provide management and recovery assistance. Get to know your University of Florida IFAS County Extension Agent and Florida Forest Service County Forester. They can provide valuable management assistance and will be knowledgeable about local recovery efforts, workshops, and available assistance after a hurricane.
Also contact your USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency to see what assistance they can offer to help you reach your land management goals. Having your land or farm enrolled in an assistance program will help you get connected to recovery assistance when it is available after a natural disaster.
Do some pruning —Trees, especially those over structures and fences, should be pruned regularly to reduce broken or dead limbs that could cause damage.
Fill the tanks —Tanks containing fuel, herbicides, fertilizer, and other materials should be kept full, or otherwise secured, and to ensure that sufficient fuel is available for machinery used in recovery efforts after the storm.
Keep ditches clean — If present, ditches should be kept clean so excess storm water can drain properly.
Emergency equipment — Make sure that all emergency equipment; including generators, chain saws, air compressors, and other equipment; is on hand and in good working order.
Communications equipment — If you have them, make sure radios are in good working order. Have hand-held portable radios with extra charged battery packs available for family or hired help after the storm. Direct truck-to-truck radio communication is most reliable when phone lines are down, but cellular phones with radio capabilities and standard cellular phones can help family and workers save valuable time during the recovery process.
Hazardous materials—Hazardous materials should be secured prior to a storm, and gasoline pumps, if present, should be shut down.
Emergency contacts — Have a list of phone numbers you might need in an emergency, including numbers for phone and internet service, utilities, fire department, police, and medical facilities.
Take photos – Take photos of your stands and/or fields before the storm so you can have a record of the condition of these areas before damage occurs. This could help with records needed for insurance claims and/or government assistance programs.
Time for harvest? – If in line with your management plan and objectives, consider harvesting mature timber stands to capture the full market value of the products you have. A salvage sale of a storm-damaged stand will only yield 10-15% of the normal market value. See Steps to Marketing Timber, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fr130, for important considerations for selling your timber.
Zekri, M., R. Rouse, and J. Crane. 2017. Hurricane Preparedness for Citrus Groves. HS-804. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Available online: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ch178
Demers, C. and A. Long. 2019. Selecting a Consulting Forester. SS-FOR-16. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Available online: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fr125