Farmers are rushing harvest and working to protect livestock as hurricane Florence comes barreling toward the North Carolina coast. At its current strength, Florence would be just the 24th Category 4 storm to make landfall on the mainland U.S. since 1851.
However, the storm is continuing to gain strength and some meteorologists predict it will be the fourth Category 5 hurricane to make landfall on the mainland U.S. since 1851. Weather officials say Florence is so wide that life-threatening storm surge could push 300 miles ahead of the eye of the storm. Once Florence makes landfall, data shows there’s a chance it could slow and event stall, dumping 20 to 30 inches of rain from South Carolina to Ohio.
Several coastal states are now evacuating, and those residents who stay are getting prepared. Storm surge, flash flooding, heavy rainfall and of course the winds associated with Florence will bring a lot of trees down a lot of power outages, says Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center.
“We're really trying to get everyone to be ready for the system and looking at the onset of tropical storm force winds everybody along the coastline needs to be have all their plans in place and be done by Wednesday,” he says. “The chance of tropical storm force winds extending well inland mean everybody [else] needs to have their plans in place by Thursday.”
Grain farmers aren’t the only ones hustling to beat the storm. Hog farmers in North Carolina are making final preparations to protect their livestock before Florence arrives. That includes managing lagoons, preparing for power outages and even relocating hogs out of barns located on lower ground.
Since the storm is slated to dump up to 15 or 20 inches of rain in pockets of North Carolina, the president of the North Carolina Pork Council, Brendan Warren says, “We are continuing to work until the storm forces us inside.”
Packing plants are closing their doors in preparation for the storm as well. According to Reuters, Smithfield Foods will close its Tar Heel, N.C., pork processing plant on Thursday and Friday. That plant employs 4,400 people and has capacity to process up to 35,000 hogs per day. The company will so close its Clinton, N.C. facility with a daily capacity of 10,600 hogs. Cargill has not officially closed any of their North Carolina, Georgia or Virginia plants as of Sept. 12, 5:30 p.m. EST, but is monitoring the weather closely with plans to close facilities if employees are unable to commute to work safely.