Each year growers wait for rainy season and more rainfall to help their young trees grow faster and to increase productivity in mature trees. Although they hope reasonable distribution of rains following the usual dry spring season, tropical storms or hurricane may bring too much rain and wind, causing damage to citrus groves (figure 1).
Citrus trees are very susceptible to hurricane wind force because of their shallow-rooted system. Damage from strong wind and 10-20 inches of rain could be the most severe injury on trees. In addition, raising the level of water in bays because of high tides may cause grove flooding.
Plan Before Hurricane
It is wise to have a plan for hurricane season and use it to prepare even before June first, the start of the hurricane season. Although growers can not protect trees and fruits from wind, but they should protect the people, equipment, and supplies that will be needed in the recovery process after hurricane.
- Make a list: The important part of the preparation is to make sure all managers and workers know their responsibilities before, during, and after hurricane, so make a list.
- Safety training: Workers should be trained in the safe operation of unfamiliar equipment that they may have to use after hurricane.
- Make tanks full: Tanks including fuel, fertilizer, and other materials should be kept full to stop moving by the wind and to ensure that there is enough fuel available for recovery days.
- Clean ditches: make sure to clean ditches and pump down to maximize water removal in rainy days
- Prepare trees: prune trees regularly to reduce broken limbs. Use windbreakers to reduce tree damage.
- Emergency equipment: Make sure that all emergency equipment including generator, chain saws, torches, and air compressors are functional and in good repair.
- Communication equipment: ensure that portable radios are in good working order and with extra charged battery packs available for workers.
- Hazardous material: ensure that hazardous materials are secured before storm and to shut down gasoline pumps.
- Emergency contacts: Have a list of emergency numbers including phone and electric companies, sheriffs, and medical facilities.
- Make a priority plan: priority plan help ensure that all essential damage assessment and recovery operations are carried out.
- Employee contact information: make sure to have a list of all employee’s address and phone number to call for help or inspection after storm.
- Damage inspection: growers should conduct inspection for possible damage after storm.
- Excess water removal: ensure that excess water is removed from tree zoon as soon as possible. This task must be done within 72 hours to avoid root damage due to insufficient oxygen.
- Tree rehabilitation: workers should know how to properly upright toppled trees and reset them to upright position as soon as possible after storm. Toppled trees should be pruned back to main trunk. Paint the exposed trunk and branches with white latex to prevent sunburn (Figure 2).