Prep Farms as Sandy Moves Westward

As now post-tropical storm Sandy moves toward the Midwest and continues destruction on the East Coast, take heed of these storm-preparation emergency guidelines.

by Dani Yokhna
Hurricane Sandy, now reduced to post-tropical storm status, continues moving toward the Midwest. Graphic courtesy NOAA National Weather Service (
Graphic courtesy NOAA National Weather Service
Hurricane Sandy, now reduced to post-tropical storm status, continues moving toward the Midwest.

Also dubbed “Frankenstorm” and the “Perfect Storm,” Hurricane Sandy swept through New England on into New York, New Jersey and the Great Lakes region yesterday and early this morning, bringing with it destructive winds and rains and an onslaught of winter weather typically unheard of during the month of October.

As of 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, reported 8 million people without power and snow reaching as high as 26 inches in parts of Maryland. The National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center has reduced the status of Sandy from hurricane to post-tropical storm, but high-wind advisories are still in effect for the Mid-Atlantic to New England and hurricane-force wind gusts can be expected from Virginia to Massachusetts. Storm-like weather is expected to stick around the next few days, reports, especially on the East Coast and in the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes regions.

Farmers should have an emergency plan in place for a storm of this magnitude, according to the Cornell Cooperative Extension, but there are still some short-term preparations that farmers, especially in the Midwest, can make as Sandy moves westward. Short-range preparations should focus on immediate concerns, such as turning off propane, moving livestock or equipment to safe places, and updating phone numbers for emergency assistance.

  • Continue monitoring local weather reports for up-to-the-minute information on post-tropical storm Sandy.
  • Charge batteries on cell phones and cameras.
  • Determine check-in points for family members and farm workers.
  • Store or secure personal items or farm equipment that might blow away or blow into farm structures.
  • Ensure emergency generators are in working order, and purchase sufficient amounts of fuel to operate them.
  • Inventory livestock feed and order extra if needed.
  • Move poultry and livestock to higher ground if possible, and shelter them in securely battened barns, houses or tightly fenced areas.
  • Plan for the possibility of evacuation and identify horse facilities in nearby vicinities that are willing to take horses in an emergency. Find out the shelter’s requirements for vaccinations or tests, such as the Coggins Test. Implement a system for permanently identifying each horse with its name, your name and a phone number.
  • Turn off the propane supply at tanks, and secure tanks in the event of flooding to prevent them from floating away.
  • Move farm equipment to the highest, open ground possible away from trees or buildings.
  • Pump and store adequate supplies of drinking water for humans and animals in case of power outages. Recommendations are for a minimum 36-hour reserve.
  • Top off all gas, propane and other fuel tanks, including family vehicles.
  • Mark animals with an identifier so they can be returned to you if lost. This can include ear tags with farm name and/or phone numbers, brands, paint markings on hooves or coat or clipped initials in the hair.
  • Move feed to higher ground or to a more accessible place in case of flooding or transportation problems.
  • Check the security of roofing materials, siding, windows and doors in barns and poultry houses to make sure they will not blow off or blow open in strong winds.
  • Coordinate with neighbors to discuss what resources can be shared in the event of power outages or flooding.
  • Make a list of important phone numbers to make calls following a storm. Potential numbers to include are the local emergency-management office, county-extension agent, insurance agent, county Farm Service Agency and private veterinarian.

If severe weather hits your area, keep a camera on hand to document the damage. Photos of agricultural losses are very helpful to the USDA, especially with their livestock indemnity programs.

Long-Term Emergency Plan
For farmers who don’t already have emergency plans in place, it’s advisable to prepare for future storms now. Long-range preparations can include purchasing or making rental agreements for special equipment, making adjustments to property and reviewing business arrangements.

Farms or nurseries with greenhouses, dairies, and hog and poultry operations are especially vulnerable if power remains out for a lengthy period. Farmers who cannot purchase a generator should consider leasing or negotiating a rental arrangement for a back-up generator in advance. Be aware that some rental contracts are only for eight hours of use per day.

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Property preparations can include clearing debris from drainage ditches so water can run freely; checking power lines for clearance and pruning or removing trees that could fall on lines; surveying buildings for limbs or trees close to buildings; and pounding in extra nails or tightening hurricane straps to prevent wind damage. Other precautions include clearing away all debris that could blow in high winds, securing farm signs and photographing valuable items and storing the pictures off-site.

Farmers and homeowners alike should store all business records above flood level, which is generally at least 2 feet off the floor.

A final long-range preventive measure is reviewing business affairs, including insurance policies, debt level and finances. Farmers need to ensure they have adequate insurance coverage for homes, vehicles, farm buildings and structures, crops, and flood damage.

Check out these other resources to prepare your farm for emergency:


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