Waiting for slow-moving Hurricane Florence to arrive in North Carolina was compared by one observer to being stalked by a turtle.
While the massive hurricane had been downgraded to category 2, weather officials warned that it is likely to bring historic flooding when it arrives in force on Sept. 14.
Life-threatening, catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding are likely over portions of the Carolinas and the southern/central Appalachians into the middle of next week, according to the National Weather Service.
With trucks getting off the road and sweet potato shippers closing their sheds in preparation of heavy rains and wind, slow moving Hurricane Florence was lashing the coast of North Carolina on Sept. 13.
Florence was expected to create disruptions and scarcity in trucks available to move produce in and out of much of the East Coast for several days.
On Sept. 13, Chad O’Shea, director of the Eastern produce division for L&M Transportation Services, Raleigh, N.C., said truckers wanted to be home when the storm hits. Hurricane Florence was expected to make landfall the morning of Sept 14.
“It is not even a case of (higher) rates, it’s just a case that everybody wants to be home preparing their homes for what’s going to happen,” he said.
Bringing in produce to the region will be difficult as well, he said.
“If you’re loading anything outside this area, to get them to come into this area — nobody’s going to do that until they know exactly what’s happening,” he said.
The Eastern seaboard from South Carolina to Virginia and Delaware will experience heavy rain and wind, which he said will cause “complete disruption” of normal transportation patterns.
Most sweet potato sheds had closed by mid-day Sept. 13, said Bryan Williams, sales representative for Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC, Raleigh, N.C.. The Raleigh area could get 10 inches of rain and growing areas further east near the coast could get close to 20 inches, he said.
Most of the sweet potato sheds were closed for outbound shipping and prepping for the storm, with expectations of reopening Sept. 17.
“We’ve even had people calling in that we have to turn down sales orders,” he said. “We have got to wait and reassess on Monday,” he said.
While a portion of the crop had been harvested, he said the majority of sweet potatoes are still in the field.
There is the potential for prices to rise because of crop damage, but he said it is too early to speculate about that.
“First and foremost we want everybody to be safe — that’s the crucial thing,” Williams said.
There is no way to predict exactly what growers will experience with rains caused by Hurricane Florence, said George Wooten, owner of Wayne E. Bailey Produce Co., Chadbourn. “We are a few days from really knowing... there is a saying that you don’t know how you look till you get your picture took,” he said Sept. 11.