Hurricane Sandy Spares Northeast Dairies

15:25PM Oct 30, 2012

Although dairies are still assessing the monster storm’s aftermath, reports from Vermont, Pennsylvania, New York and Virginia indicate no major dairy damage.


Hurricane Sandy, which slammed into the Northeast U.S. yesterday, appears to have caused relatively little damage to dairies in Vermont, Pennsylvania, Virginia and New York.

While farms and dairies throughout the area are still assessing Sandy’s aftermath, the storm’s impact seemed mostly confined to power outages, damaged buildings, and downed trees and telephone poles at dairies, according to several reports today.

“In our area, it’s mostly cosmetic damage,” said Justin Burdette, whose 110-cow dairy near Mercersburg, Pa., sits about eight miles from the Maryland border.

Burdette spent this morning helping a neighbor whose heifer barn had been completely knocked down by 80 mph winds that tore through the area last night. The animals were unhurt, Burdette said. But just four miles away, he said, damages were still being assessed at another heifer barn that had been blown down. Burdette reported his area had received 5” to 10” of rain in the last 24-36 hours.

Early reports from Vermont, home to 961 cow dairies, indicate relatively little damage in the state or to dairies from Hurricane Sandy, which has been downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone.

“Sandy rolled through but was very mild,” said Alison Kosakowski, marketing and promotions administrator with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets.

“So far, no flooding and the winds have been manageable,” Kosakowski said. “Last year, [Hurricane] Irene was an absolute terror, and virtually shut down the dairy industry. But no major issues here. Some communities have lost power, but I expect those dairies are running on generators. There have been a few fallen trees, but the roads department has cleared things up quickly. We are so relieved.”

Yesterday’s monster storm came just 14 months after Hurricane Irene barreled through the Northeast U.S., flooding fields and pastures, knocking out bridges and roads, and impeding dairy deliveries. Disaster experts are saying Hurricane Sandy could be costlier than Irene.

Since emerging out of the Caribbean late last week, Hurricane Sandy has left millions without power, caused widespread flooding that may shut New York City's subways for days, and killed several people. With much of lower Manhattan without power and some streets flooded, U.S. stock exchanges remained closed today for a second consecutive day. President Obama has approved major disaster declarations for the states of New Jersey and New York.

“At this point, there has been minimum impact on our members as a whole,” said Jennifer J. Huson, director of communications for Dairylea Cooperative Inc. in East Syracuse, N.Y. Dairylea markets milk for more than 2,000 dairy farms throughout the Northeast.

“Mostly the impact has been intermittent,” Huson said. “The largest impact we have had is on the plant side. From Sunday through Tuesday, we have had approximately 200 loads of milk turned back. The network we have set up enables us to handle this kind of situation, and we have been successful in finding homes for all this milk.”

“Right now we have fared much better than those to the North of us,” said Amber DuMont Sheridan of Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association. “Our five plants are all operating and didn't have much, if any, storm damage. We have one customer without power in the Philadelphia area.”

The Virginia-based cooperative markets milk for 1,500-plus dairy farmer owners throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions.

“We’ll know more later today once haulers can pick up milk,” Sheridan added. “We’re expecting lots of trees down and closed roads due to flooding, so it’s going to be a long day for our haulers.”

Pennsylvania dairy producer Glenn Gorrell said his area had escaped major damage. “We up here in the northern half of the state are doing fine,” said Gorrell. “We have had strong winds, but only 1.5 inches of rain. Some trees [are] down, [there’s] a ripped roof on the greenhouse for calves. The storm should have done the most damage in southeast Pennsylvania.”

Gorrell, who also serves as president of Professional Dairy Managers of Pennsylvania (PDMP), said he had spoken with the organization’s board members in central Pennsylvania, and they reported they were fine. One dairy in northern Lancaster Co. had received 4” of rain, but did not lose power. Gorrell had not been able to reach another PDMP member whose dairy sits near the Delaware/Maryland line. That dairy, Gorrell said, “was in direct path, and should have gotten 6-10 inches of rain and hurricane force winds.”

“Very little disruption that we are aware of at our end of the state,” reported dairy advisor Chris Noble of Linwood Management Group near Rochester, N.Y. “No flooding to speak of (1.5” here overnight) and relatively minor wind damage.”