Picture by Alabama Farmers Federation/Hurricane Sally damaged crops and structures along Alabama’s Gulf
Coast when it hit Sept. 16. Cassebaum Farms in Lillian in Baldwin County sustained damage to its pecan crop. Marlee Moore(334)830-1053 Slow-moving Hurricane Sally stalled for hours along Alabama’s Gulf Coast Sept. 16, her creeping progress flooding fields– and farmers’ expect bumper harvests.
“It began blowing high winds about 3 a.m. and didn’t stop till mid-morning. It was a beating,” stated Eric Street, who farms near Fairhope with his bro, Tobin. “We have actually been getting ready for this our whole life. If you farm in Baldwin County, you understand it’s coming.”
Prior to the Classification 2 storm brought 100-plus mph winds and over 20 inches of rain to the Gulf Coast, Street was positive about his crops.
“We seemed like we had an excellent crop of cotton, an amazing crop of peanuts and among our finest crops of soybeans,” said Street, who serves on the Alabama Farmers Federation State Soybean Committee. “I think there will be something we can collect, but I do not learn about its quality. This is why we buy crop insurance and why we bought the new cyclone defense insurance.”
Street’s cotton crop took a whipping from the typhoon, evidenced by tangled, flattened plants and broken bolls.
“This is a substantial tension on cotton,” he said. “It produces a biological tension where the bolls will not open correctly. The quality will be less due to the fact that they will not develop correctly.”
Farther east in Lillian, pecans popped underfoot as Todd Cassebaum surveyed enormous, overturned decades-old trees in his family’s orchard. Limbs were filled with pecans prior to the storm. He predicted it would have been his best crop in years.
“Years’ worth of work is devastated,” said Cassebaum, who farms with his better half, Hope, the Baldwin County Farmers Federation president. “We had a good crop coming prior to the storm. The wind was so difficult the trunks rocked and fell. They simply could not take it.”
A concrete watering pivot structure ripped from the soil told a similar story at Mark Kaiser’s farm in Seminole.
“This storm just caught everybody off guard,” stated Kaiser, the Federation’s District 12 director. “We understood when it slowed like that we remained in problem. There’s a specific quantity of prep you can do but just so much time.”
Dillon Turk shares Kaiser’s belief. Throughout Mobile Bay in Semmes, his family’s Martin’s Nursery uncovered greenhouses in preparation for the storm.
“If a lot of wind is coming and we understand it, we need to reveal the plastic,” Turk stated. “If the wind catches it, it can tear the entire greenhouse down. Since we knew something was coming, we uncovered what we could. It’s hard enough to get ready with adequate direct, much less with a day’s notice.”
Forecasters initially predicted the storm would make landfall along the Louisiana coast, but as it churned for an extended duration in the Gulf, it slowly turned east, making landfall in Alabama– 16 years to the day considering that historic Cyclone Ivan struck the state. For nursery growers, Turk said Sally’s heavy rain prior to its high winds was a true blessing, as rain-soaked potted plants are harder to topple. Thankfully, his family’s nursery got power back the day after the storm, while neighbors in Baldwin County might be without power for weeks.
Snapped power poles and downed lines were common throughout much of Baldwin County. Mobile County Farmers Federation President Art Sessions stated pecan and cotton crops appear to have actually taken the worst hit in his county. Damage to peanuts, soybeans and nursery crops might not show up for days, he said. Street, Cassebaum, Kaiser and Sessions said they were appreciative they bought additional hurricane crop insurance executed by USDA’s Risk Management Agency this year.
Farmers farther inland and throughout south Alabama felt Sally’s wrath also. The storm disposed record quantities of rain there, causing comprehensive damage to crops, pond dams and roadways. Extra help to farmers and property owners was available in the type of additional Alfa Insurance adjusters and agents released to help clients impacted by Cyclone Sally.
“Alfa Insurance coverage’s home town adjusters and agents were looking at customers and taking claims as quickly as the storm moved out,” stated Alfa Insurance President Jimmy Parnell, also president of the Alabama Farmers Federation. “As of Friday morning, the company had actually gotten more than 1,600 claims throughout Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. An extra 18 claims adjusters from north Alabama were being released to help procedure claims in the southern part of the state.”
Back near the Florida line in Seminole, Kaiser’s soybeans took a pounding, with tiny wind-torn holes peppering the leaves. The damage will hinder pod growth, Kaiser said, reducing quality and yields.
“This was the prettiest crop of beans I ‘d ever seen,” Kaiser said. “We were so excited due to the fact that the (soybean) market had actually been going up.”
In Fairhope, Street invested the day after the storm helping neighbors clear driveways. He’s waiting on fields to dry before digging peanuts next week– if a series of storms developing in the Atlantic avoid the Gulf. Storms like Sally put life into point of view, Street said.
“My family is accounted for, and no one is harmed. That’s what I appreciate,” he stated. “This is going to be a kick, but we will recuperate.”
Farmers are motivated to submit a survey at AlfaFarmers.org/ study to assist the Federation track damage and report findings to the U.S. Department of Farming. Farmers should also report damage to their local
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