Bad Weather Or Not, Preparation Always On Radar For Florida Farmers [Opinion]

Paul Rusnak

Paul Rusnak

It never ceases to amaze me how tuned in you all are to weather. As growers, you have to be. It’s natural. But the fascination carries well beyond our industry as weather truly affects us all. When I review statistics for GrowingProduce.com, I notice patterns of all types that clearly show what resonates with readers. Year in, year out, month over month, weather-related posts are at or near the top of the pile.

And they’re not all specific weather events either. Many of what captures clicks are short- and long-term forecast items. It goes to show no matter how glued to the radar you might be, curiosity still reigns.

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A Mighty Wind

Recently, Colorado State University climatologists Drs. William Gray and Phil Klotzbach released their 2015 Atlantic hurricane season extended outlook. While this particular forecast always nabs headlines since it’s the first official stab of several, this year’s prediction was anything but sensational, as the duo believes the Atlantic basin will experience one of the least active seasons since the middle of the 20th century.

Talk about great news, especially if you’re a Florida grower. Development of the notorious El Niño climate phase has occurred and will likely stand in the way of significant tropical storm development in the Atlantic and Caribbean. Whew! However, along with the sense of relief this prediction might bring comes the cautionary phrase: “It only takes one.”

Very true. Who can forget Hurricane Andrew? Most reading this are probably raising their hands right now as memories of one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever strike the Florida Peninsula comes rushing back like a swirling storm surge. Why bring up Andrew? Well, it struck during an El Niño year, and it was the only major hurricane of the 1992 season.

How confident are you in your farm management methods to adequately withstand a hurricane strike?

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More recently, the hyperactive hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005 not only ravaged a chunk of the state’s agriculture infrastructure, but also helped usher in new pest and disease threats.

Much rebuilding has happened since then, mostly in the form of greenhouses and high tunnel systems to accommodate the growing need for specialized products, to compete with more progressive competition, and help protect against pests.

Given history, however, we know protected ag is anything but protected from wild weather. So, even with all the modern upgrades, can you and your equipment take it?

50/50 Chance

The Sunshine State has been fortunate to be a hurricane-free zone for the last 10 years. That luck will run out eventually. It’s just part of the reality of where we live and work. But where we live and work also provides so many more opportunities to succeed and stand out compared to inherent risks.

You cannot prevent a natural disaster from taking everything you have, but you can prepare to lessen the blow if and when it happens. Forecasts change. If you stay on top of the latest (and I know you will), there’s no reason we all won’t be able to weather any storm.