With Hurricane Irene bearing down on North Carolina with winds in excess of 100 mph, the state’s pork producers are busily ramping up emergency preparations. Irene was raised to a major Category 3 hurricane early Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

“We’re monitoring the storm very closely and it looks like the hurricane may make landfall or be nearest to our shore sometime Saturday,” said Deborah Johnson, chief executive officer, North Carolina Pork Council.

NCPC sent out an advisory communication to their membership Wednesday suggesting priorities as producers begin preparation for the approaching hurricane. “We had two major hurricanes in the late 1990’s so our producers are particularly aware of the need to be prepared for weather emergencies and they take them very seriously.”

The advisory includes reminders to ensure that generators are functional should they be needed in the case of a power outage. Other priorities include making sure a supply of feed is available should roads become impassable or feed delivery vehicles are unavailable. “If any medications are needed, producers should see that they are available on the farm,” adds Johnson.

“Given the information that is currently available to us, producers are encouraged to make plans now for animal care in case of power outages or blocked roads/access to farms,” according to an announcement posted on the NCPC website.  

The announcement also urges producers to review monitoring and reporting requirements contained in their general permit related to any failure of an animal waste management system.

While the hurricane’s path is unpredictable, additional steps may become necessary as the storm approaches, according to Johnson. “It may be advisable to shut off valves on fuel tanks as well as to secure loading chutes, shutters and doors.” Most North Carolina producers have an emergency action plan so they are aware of preparation activities that are needed.

Anything producers can do now to minimize damage is advisable. “It has to be done in stages,” says Johnson. Producers have already started on their preparations and depending on the path of the hurricane, more preparation is likely. “Friday will be a big day for us.”

In addition to hurriedly making preparations for the hurricane, some producers are trying to salvage what they can from a drought-stricken corn crop. “Many producers who have a corn crop are out trying to get that in in advance of the anticipated rain and wind,” says Johnson.

Even if Irene passes east of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a flooding storm surge may still occur, according to AccuWeather.com. Other flooding concerns will arise throughout easternmost North Carolina as Irene unleashes a total of 4 to 6 inches of rain, with localized amounts to 10 inches, this weekend.

AccuWeather.com has provided a table of expected wind, rain and surge for the East Coast's major cities.

Source: NCPC, AccuWeather.com