Hurricane Michael’s impact on farming in Alabama’s Wiregrass region

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DOTHAN, Ala. (WIAT) — October 10, 2018 is a day many in Alabama’s Wiregrass region won’t soon forget, the day Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida.

With maximum sustained winds in the eyewall reaching a staggering 160 miles per hour, Michael was easily the strongest hurricane to impact Alabama since Hurricane Opal in 1995. As the storm’s center came within 30 miles of downtown Dothan, the damage was very real throughout the Wiregrass, particularly in agriculture. October is harvest season for most cotton farmers in Alabama, and Michael caused heavy losses for farmers just as harvesting began.

One of those farmers was JP Kelley, who lives on 2,500 acres in southern Houston County.

“2018 was an excellent growing year for our crops, so our cotton in 2018 was really good, probably the best we had ever had,” Kelley said. “It’s gone once it hits the ground, there’s no way that you can pick it up. Plus, at that point in time, the grade on it is horrible, so it’s not worth doing anything with.”

Kelley explained that the recovery process has been slow, mostly due to less-than-expected help from the federal government, and crop prices below where he feels they need to be.

“And what can they do? How are they going to make everybody happy? It’s really a difficult situation,” he said. “I know they don’t have all the answers. I don’t have all the answers. If the value of the crops we were producing were where they needed to be, then wow! It would be a lot easier to over these disasters.”

Hurricane Michael was directly responsible for the deaths of 16 people, and caused a staggering $25 billion in damages, according to the official estimate from the National Hurricane Center.

Remembering that the storm went from Category One to Category Five in just 48 hours, all the more reason for us to be hurricane ready for this hurricane season.


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