Florence, wet summer causes damage to Virginia farms

Virginia News
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When the alarms went off on Darlene Bowlin’s phone Monday afternoon, she drove across her family farm to check on her elderly mother.

“When I stuck my out the door and I could hear that train sound, rumbling on tracks,” she described. “I was shaking uncontrollably. Just so worried about what we were going to come down here and find.”

Train horns blew as I walked around the property with Bowlin four days later.

“It sounded just like that. The rumbling,” she added.

You could see the path of destruction across the property.

Trees with roots as big as the Powhatan farmer were ripped up out of the ground, laying across the long dirt driveway. Bowlin and a few others cut them up with chainsaws.

A 150-pound hay wheel was thrown 75 feet.

The tin roof of the barn was ripped apart.

“The cows when we came in here were standing, huddled together about a thousand feet away looking around like – ‘what just happened,” she said, beginning to get choked up. “They’re my life so I would have been devastated so, it’s very scary thinking about it.”

Miraculously, none of her horses or herd of cattle were caught in the path of Florence’s fury. Remnants of the storm caused an EF-0 tornado to rip through the land. That was one of 10 tornadoes reported on Monday by the National Weather Service. One was deadly.

In the nearly 100 years Bowlin’s family has owned New Castle Farm, the only other time the land faced this type of destruction was during Hurricane Isabel. Florence could have been much worse.

“In all actuality, the tornado went to the best spot, the best route it could have taken,” Bowlin said.

Between the washed out driveway and downed trees, it will take Bowlin a few weeks to clean up everything around the farm.

The Virginia Farm Bureau Federation says some other farmers faced flooding from the hurricane. Overall, this summer has been very wet which could cause problems come harvest.  

“What could have been a great year is probably going to be a little smaller in some places,” said Norm Hyde from the VFBF. “Farmers always want rain, but sometimes rain can be too much.”

Hyde says on average, there have been about 12 to 15 inches more rain above average this summer, so the ground was already wet before Hurricane Florence hit.

“In this case, the hay crop was affected earlier in the year, a lot of fruit crops have been dealing with mold and moisture issues,” he said. “In this case, the hay crop was affected earlier in the year, a lot of fruit crops have been dealing with mold and moisture issues.”

The Virginia Farm Bureau won’t know how the crop is until the end of the season. Hyde says it could have been much worse if we had a direct hit from the hurricane.

After a few rain showers, the sun was finally shining over New Castle Farm. The Powhatan farmer is just thankful she heard the tornado warnings and that none of her animals were hurt.

“You might think that it might not happen to you, I always thought that. But this proves that it could happen to any one of us,” she said.

The North Carolina Farm Bureau is helping with relief efforts for farmers hit there by Florence. If you’d like to help, click here.

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