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Farmers should prepare now for peak of hurricane season

Hurricane Dorian was the first to impact the U.S. east coast this hurricane season, the peak of hurricane season extends from mid-August to late October. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) encourages farmers to take precautions now to help protect their families, farm operations and livestock from this or other potential storms.

Severe weather can impact farmers in a variety of ways, but the powerful winds and flooding rains of hurricanes can be disastrous for farm staff, livestock and crops. The following are a few preparedness steps farmers can take before a storm.

Monitor local weather reports storm information. Prepare your household by creating an emergency kit with flashlights, batteries, drinking water for humans and pets, medications, emergency numbers, first aid kit, dust masks and a supply of food to last three or four days. Make sure any preparedness or evacuation plans include all household pets. Make a communication plan that identifies your evacuation routes to where your family will meet. Charge cell phone batteries and have extra batteries for radios. Store or secure items or equipment that may blow away or become dangerous projectiles. Inspect all barns, outbuildings and other structures for broken or weak components and make repairs before the storm hits. Stock up on food and water as well as feed and supplies for livestock so that you are self-sustainable for at least three days. Secure livestock and other animals. If necessary, build berms for them to stand on in low-lying areas. Stock up on nails, screws and plywood to board up windows and nail doors and windows shut. If your operation uses vent fans, water pumps, milking machines or other critical electrical equipment, purchase a gas-powered generator and plenty of fuel. Ensure a source of clean water is available so livestock will not have to drink flood water. Store fertilizers, pesticides, treated seeds and other such compounds up high and away from floodwaters and animals. Do not drive across any flooded roadway, as it only takes six inches of water to move a vehicle and roads may be washed out beneath the floodwaters. Mark animals with an identifier so they can be returned if lost. This can include ear tags with name of farm and/or phone numbers, brands, paint markings on hooves or coat, or clipped initials in the hair. Know your local emergency managers, including the sheriff and animal control officer. They are in charge during a disaster. Coordinate with neighbors before the storm to discuss what resources can be shared in the event of power outages or flooding.

For more emergency preparation tips, visit www.readyvirginia.gov/.

The following tips are for horse owners in areas prone to hurricane damage or who may find themselves in the path of an approaching storm:

· Be sure your horse’s vaccinations for tetanus and the encephalitis viruses (Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus) are current.

· Be sure that your horse has multiple forms of identification.

· Store the record for the microchip number, if present, in an accessible location.