AmericanFarm.com

Winter storm sends Mid-Atlantic states reeling

By JONATHAN CRIBBS
and JANE W. GRAHAM

(Feb. 2, 2016) Despite record snowfalls and some coastal flooding, farms in the Mid-Atlantic appeared to escape serious damage from a blizzard as it blew across the Northeast late last month.
Agricultural officials in both states said last week they were aware of no serious damage to any agricultural operations. Some farmland flooded near the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge east of Milton, Del. — an area vulnerable to temporary flooding, said Dan Shortridge, spokesperson at the Delaware agriculture department.
But most of the flooding was relegated to Oak Orchard, Lewes and Dewey Beach, primarily in developed or residential areas, he said. Flooding also occurred in coastal Maryland, causing beach erosion in the Ocean City area.
The winter storm, which media outlets nicknamed “Jonas” and “Snowzilla,” dropped more than 30 inches of snow in parts across the Mid-Atlantic between Friday evening, Jan. 22 and early Sunday morning, Jan. 24, shutting down state, local and federal government operations for days.
New York City instituted a travel ban, and the federal government in Washington did not reopen until Tuesday, Jan. 26. Schools across Northern Virginia were shut down all of last week.
“There was a gradual increase in snowfall as you travel north up the I-81 corridor,” Tom Stanley, an Extension agent serving several Shenandoah Valley counties, said. “Traveling north from Lexington, the corridor edges closer to the coast and consequently, Virginia snowfall totals topped out in the Warren, Clarke, Frederick county areas west of the Blue Ridge, and I think Loudon had the highest.”
Stanley said he measured 11 inches in Lexington, and a farmer measured 18 inches just south of the Raphine/Steeles Tavern area.
“I understand they had close to 30 inches north of Harrisonburg, he concluded.
Further south along the corridor which runs between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountain ranges the snowfall tended to decrease somewhat.
However, across the state it was the deepest snow of the season.
Heavy snows in Virginia’s Loudoun County the night of Jan. 23 resulted in four collapsed barns, including one with 40 horses stabled in it, Jim Hilleary, the county’s Extension agent said.
Hilleary said only one animal suffered minor injury from getting stuck. Workers were able to turn the horses out in the snow-covered fields after the barn fell.
Hilleary said the three other livestock or equipment barns that fell did not pose as many problems as the horse barn and the producers were able to handle their situations on their own.
The Emergency Operations Center, Extension, Animal Control and the Virginia Tech MARE Center and local veterinarians were involved in helping with the horses, a collaboration Hilleary called “impressive.”
Due to the deep snow on the roads, transporting the horses elsewhere was not possible, he said, even though the MARE Center had offered to take them in at its facility.
The center director advised simply turning them out in the fields at the barn’s location.
One vet who was snowed in herself and could not reach the barn offered her services to guide others by telephone on what to do to help injured animals, he said.
Loudoun seems to have been one of the hardest hit counties in Virginia with an average snowfall of 36 inches, he estimated.
He said the small community of Philomont, Va., recorded 39 inches from the storm.
Before the storm, agriculture officials reminded livestock and poultry owners to take precautionary measures including inspecting poultry houses and structures for loose boards and other issues, keeping generators and fuel on hand, checking feed inventories and marking driveway and roads with tall poles or stakes.
They were also told to mark animals in case they were lost in the storm and stock up on veterinary supplies.
It’s also wise, officials said, to have seven days of water on hand in case automatic waterers stop working if the power shuts off.