Pa. Agriculture Secretary George Greig is urging farmers, particularly in eastern Pennsylvania, to prepare for the potential of heavy rains, flooding and high winds related to Hurricane Sandy. But also critical is to take these steps before the eye of the storm hits.
He offered the following tips to help agricultural producers minimize damage caused by floodwaters:
— Ensure manure storage area has sufficient capacity, as rains can add to depth.
— Relocate livestock and animals from low-lying, flood-prone areas.
— Move machinery, feed, grain, pesticides, herbicides, forage bales and nursery stock to higher elevation.
— Store enough livestock feed and water for 72 hours.
— Fill generators with fuel and test them to ensure they are in good repair.
— Disconnect electric power to all buildings that may flood.
Crop farmers should:
— Notify their crop insurance agent within 72 hours of discovery of crop damage.
— Leave intact all residue and crop damage until insurance agents can properly assess extent of damage.
— Contact their agent or the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture at 717-705-9511 with questions about crop insurance.
John Bartok, University of Connecticut ag engineer emeritus, offers some tips for greenhouse or high tunnel owners:
Although you have no control over the force or direction of severe winds, here are a few tips to help minimize storm damage:
— Check the area for loose objects. Anything that can be picked up and hurled through the glazing should be secured or moved indoors. Metal chimney (stove pipe) sections should be secured with sheet metal screws.
— Inspect for dry or weak tree limbs that could fall on the greenhouse.
— Close all openings including vents, louvers and doors. The effective force of the wind is doubled when it is allowed inside the building. The wind on the outside puts a pressure or lifting force on the structure. The wind inside tries to force the walls and roof off.
— On air-inflated greenhouses, increase the inflation pressure slightly by opening the blower’s intake valve. This will reduce the rippling effect. Check to see that the plastic is attached securely and that any holes are taped.
— Disconnect the arm to the motor on all ventilation – intake shutters and tape the shutters closed. Then turn on enough exhaust fans to create a vacuum in the greenhouse. This will suck the plastic tight against the frame.
“I’d like to share a couple of thoughts about protecting greenhouses and high tunnels from high wind events. The most important thing to do is close the tunnels completely.
“Roll down sides, close and secure doors and vents so the wind can’t get inside and apply lift on the frame and poly.
“If your poly is off the tunnel, make sure you secure the doors against wind pressure from the inside blowing outward. I have seen cases where the end wall is torn apart by a flailing door.
“Also, pick up and/or secure all items that could fly around and puncture the poly. A sheet of plywood for example makes a very good flying object!
“Also, I have seen many tunnels with very weak or non-existent ropes securing the roll ups in place. If the ropes break or come loose the side will start flapping and in the worst case scenario it can put enough torque on the hip board bolts that they actually snap off and the entire piece of poly will tear off the tunnel. Then you have a piece of pipe with poly attached possibly flying to your next tunnel and ripping through the roof.”
Here’s more information about how to recover from a severe storm.