Image courtesy of North Carolina National Guard with permission.
As the Carolinas struggle to survive the still-rising waters that have been the primary threat from Hurricane Florence, getting a sense of the magnitude of loss in lives and property is one that’s difficult to comprehend.
It’s one thing to hear a river’s rising. But hearing a river’s depth has quadrupled -and is still climbing- simply boggles the mind. More than three dozen people have already died, and the waters simply haven’t begun to recede in some parts of the Carolinas.
One area where the toll is still being calculated is agriculture. Farmers hurried to get crops harvested before Florence hit, but there were many crops that were simply drowned in the fields.
Livestock, too, is paying the price. According to SuccessfulFarming, the toll in poultry, pork and pollution has already surpassed the damage from Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services estimates that 3.4 million poultry birds and more than 5,000 hogs have already died. According to North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, “we will probably exceed what we had (losses) in Matthew.”
In all, North Carolina raises about 12 percent of the U.S. swine herd, and many of those animals remain trapped in barns where even more may drown. Nine percent of the U.S. chicken flock and thirteen percent of the nation’s turkeys are also in the threatened areas.
“There will be,” Troxler said, “pretty good losses on the poultry side, too.”
A byproduct of the hog farming- manure- may present a potential health threat. Hog waste is stored in outdoor pits (also called lagoons). According to North Carolina surveys, nearly 20 pits have either collapsed or been flooded by the torrential rains. That’s a concern because waste from those lagoons could spread antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Farmers administer antibiotics to their farm animals - and antibiotics can be found in their waste.
A sampling of waterways in eastern North Carolina following Hurricane Matthew showed temporarily elevated bacteria levels. Fortunately, many of the state’s farmers significantly lowered the levels in their lagoons prior to the arrival of Hurricane Florence. There are more than 3,300 of these lagoons in North Carolina.
WH Group Ltd’s Smithfield Foods Inc., the nation’s largest pork producer, closed the world’s largest hog slaughterhouse in Tar Heel, North Carolina, but said their other plants were operating at limited capacities.
At this point, there’s really no way to begin and estimate the toll on wild animals in the impacted areas. However, wildlife officials say the damage from Hurricane Florence virtually assures a significant impact on wildlife throughout areas most heavily impacted by the hurricane and accompanying rainfall.
As always, we’ll keep you posted.