Preparations for Hurricane Ian (Collins & Edmisten)

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We were really hoping to avoid having to write an article like this. I think everyone breathes a sigh of relief after Fiona bypassed us, but now the weather folks have become more serious about Ian, beginning only yesterday morning. Below are some strategies for preparing and dealing with a likely arrival of a hurricane.

1. As of right now, there’s a large degree of uncertainty about the path this storm will likely take. The latest estimations suggest that Ian may make landfall on the gulf side of Florida next Wednesday or Thursday, meaning that the impact on us will likely be next weekend. Of course, predictions could change quite a bit between now and then, but the cone appears rather wide at the moment. The ideal scenario would be for this storm to miss us altogether by taking the furthest eastward track. A coastal track would likely be the worst case for us and a gulf hit would likely weaken it by the time it reaches us, but we’d still have to deal with the remnants of it. I don’t think anyone would argue about a little rain, but severe winds and excessive rains are never a good thing for us. As of right now, there are a number of different scenarios we could potentially encounter, so any actions we take can only be based on what we know right now. What we do know, is that there is potential for a bad storm to hit us, so we need to act accordingly. This was not expected until very recently and it couldn’t have come at a worse time.

A map showing the predicted track and strength of Hurricane Ian.

2. Several fields have already been defoliated over the last two weeks. Let’s try to harvest that cotton as best we can throughout the coming week. Some fields that were defoliated very recently may not be fully open or defoliated, so give it as long as you can but consider harvesting even these fields before the storm hits. Build modules or align your round modules where water is NOT likely to stand. For standard modules, secure tarps with cinder blocks or something heavy.

3. If you have some fields that are 100 % open but haven’t been defoliated, you can try to defoliate and remove the majority of leaves ONLY IF you think you can harvest it prior to the storms arrival. If you can’t harvest it before the storm arrives, it may not matter much either way, but leaves may help intercept a little rain and protect open bolls a little bit. This small degree of protection is really only applicable to indirect hits of a weakened storm. Defoliating before or after a direct hit of a severe storm won’t matter much.

4. If you have any meaningful closed bolls remaining on the plant and you know you can’t defoliate and open them in time to harvest prior to the storms arrival, LEAVE IT ALONE. This is crunch time now, so if you think you can harvest it prior to a storm, defoliate now. Otherwise, DONT DEFOLIATE. Closed bolls are protected bolls. Partially opened bolls are likely to hardlock when intense rains arrived. Fully open bolls are very vulnerable to falling out of the burr. Everyone always worries about getting behind if they don’t defoliate prior to a storm. There’s no point in being on time if there’s little or nothing to harvest. We are still early yet, and we can more than make up lost time right now. We see this time after time when hurricanes hit us….closed bolls are protected and opened or partially opened bolls are usually lost to varying degrees.