Gators assist with Hurricane Ian recovery

University of Florida students, faculty, staff and community are coming together to help those impacted by Hurricane Ian.

Aid-a-Gator provides funding to students experiencing unanticipated expenses due to emergency situations.The Hitchcock Field & Fork Pantry is a free resource for all members of the UF community providing basic staples, bread and frozen meals as well as fresh seasonal produce from its gardens.

UF Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service (VETS) disaster response team, made up of veterinarians, emergency responders and students from the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, mobilized to Southwest Florida to help more than 300 animals with emergency care using triage, gas anesthesia and basic surgery.

College of Journalism and Communications students with WUFT covered the hurricane as reporters to tell stories of communities cut off by the hurricane and of the survivors. These reporters traveled in boats with the U.S. Coast Guard to report on rescuing survivors stuck on Big Pine Island.

UF/IFAS

When county emergency operations centers (EOC) were activated in anticipation of impact, UF/IFAS Extension agents were called up to serve in their county’s centers. They are trained to monitor, prepare, respond and assist in recovery which requires them to leave their homes and families during and after these storms for the good of their communities. At least 40 UF/IFAS Extension agents served in county disaster call centers and EOCs in Hurricane Ian.

David Outerbridge, director of UF/IFAS Extension Lee County, is helping arrange cleanups of demonstration gardens, evaluating losses to crops and ornamental plants. He’s also evaluating impacts on trees, including palms. Outerbridge is helping support community partners with resources on issues including funding for recovery, food and water safety, obtaining food and evaluating damage.

UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County is working in shelters after their own office was flooded by broken pipes after the hurricane passed through. Sarasota Extension and partners are providing water, ready-to-eat non-perishable meals, bag ice, feed, hay and other supplies at the regional hub at Dakin Dairy Farms, in Myakka City. They are offering self-serve water, ice and ready-to-eat non-perishable meals. Dakin Dairy sustained significant losses of facilities and cattle, but are working with its extension partners to help lead the way.

Ramdas Kanissery, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of horticultural sciences at Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, is helping farmers with post-hurricane applications of herbicides to crops to ensure best practices are helping to protect the environment

After a storm, UF/IFAS Extension agents, like Lisa Hickey, go to farms and other sites in their counties to assess damage to report back to their counties and other agencies collecting the data. Hickey went to a farm in Manatee County after Hurricane Ian.

UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program, housed in Food and Resource Economics Department (FRED) and led by Christa Court, assistant professor of regional economics and director in UF/IFAS, analyzed and released data summarizing the extent and value of agricultural lands that might be impacted by the hurricane. Immediately after the hurricane, they distributed an assessment tool to gather data from the field that informs decision-making at local, state, and federal levels on disaster declaration and response. This assessment data will be used to project the dollar value of impact to agriculture, which can be used by any entity for relief claims.

After Hurricane Ian had passed through the state, UF/IFAS associate professor Angie Lindsey was deployed by the state of Florida to the Emergency Support Function 17 Incident Command Post in Arcadia, Florida. There she worked with State Agricultural Response Team (SART) partners to meet animal and agricultural needs in areas affected by the storm, including securing animal feed and supplies of all types.

Many South Florida beekeepers sustained heavy hive losses when the hives were flooded, killing the bees inside. Rescue efforts are underway for remaining hives. Amy Vu, UF’s statewide apiculture Extension specialist, is helping to coordinate efforts with beekeeping associations to gather and provide syrup to feed bee colonies, which are critical to agriculture.

The Florida State Beekeepers Association, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Florida Farm Bureau, UF/IFAS Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory and industry members are all collaborating to help provide relief efforts where possible. This includes immediate aid in the form of monetary support as well as food, equipment and bees.

Many honey bee colonies were devastated by the storm, and now beekeepers need help providing food—in the form of sugar syrup and pollen—for surviving bees. UF/IFAS has been helping to facilitate communication – a task made more challenging given telecommunications outages post-storm – between beekeepers, government and funding agencies, insurance companies, and more.

Blake Trauschke October 10, 2022