UPDATED: Irene destroys Mid Atlantic production, spares New York - The Packer

UPDATED: Irene destroys Mid Atlantic production, spares New York

08/29/2011 09:35:00 AM
Chris Koger

(UPDATED COVERAGE, 10:16 a.m.)  Early estimates show large losses from Hurricane Irene, which ravaged Mid-Atlantic and Eastern Shore production areas.

Parker FarmsHurricane Irene dumped torrential rains on Mid-Atlantic growing regions, like at this field in the Northern Neck area of Virginia across from the Eastern Shore. Though growers report damage, shippers and officials don’t expect large crop losses.The storm, which rolled through North Carolina’s outer banks and into the Delmarva region Aug. 26-27, left widespread damage, said Calvert Cullen, president of Northampton Growers Produce Sales Inc., Cheriton, Va.

“Right now, we haven’t got a full report, but from general assessment, on the North Carolina farms, I don’t know if there will be anything left,” Cullen said Aug. 29. “One farm I spoke with, a string bean farm, there’s nothing left but stalks in the field. All the leaves are gone.”

Torrential rains brought 14 inches to Northampton’s North Carolina fields and 10 inches to most of its Eastern Shore areas in Virginia. Cullen said preliminary reports aren’t favorable for Virginia and said he expects to know more by Aug. 30. He said he suspects other growers sustained similar damage.

Most of Cullen’s North Carolina fields are on the eastern side of the state, where the hurricane first made landfall, and spent 21 hours tearing up the two states as it continued up the coast into Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey before winds calmed down and forecasters downgraded Irene to a tropical storm as it approached New York on Aug. 28.

Matthew D’Arrigo, vice president of D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York Inc., and co-chairman of the Hunts Point Terminal Market, said the market fared well through Tropical Storm Irene.

“The market opened for business at our normal hour last night,” he said Aug. 29. “The only impact I could tell from the storm here in the market was the relative inability of employees and customers of the market to make it to work due to widespread flooding and road closures.”

D’Arrigo said the storm caused large flooding in the metropolitan area’s suburban regions, including parts of Queens and Long Island, and inland areas such as Westchester County, Conn., and New Jersey.

Though market operations remain close to the Bronx River, D’Arrigo said the water didn’t rise into the marketplace.

George Wooten, president of  Wayne E. Bailey Produce Co., Chadbourn, N.C., said North Carolina’s sweet potato region likely escaped serious damage.

He said he expects 5%-10% in potential damage after 2-3 inches hit the growing region, a hundred miles or so west of the Outer Banks area which sustained the largest damage. Wooten said many were expecting 12-13 inches of rain.

“We were fortunate and in our area, I think we fared pretty well,” he said Aug. 29. “We didn’t have any severe wind damage on any of the buildings.”

Wooten, Cullen and D’Arrigo said their regions are experiencing power outages caused by downed trees.



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