Assessing Structural Damage After the Storm

Assessing Structural Damage After the Storm

Hurricane Michael, tree fall damage to home

Structural damage to homes, barns, sheds, etc. is oftentimes hidden from view. Thorough inspections for seen and unseen structural damage is a critical step in the rebuilding process.  Photo by Judy Biss

The United States has suffered a series of devastating natural disasters in a relatively short time: September’s Hurricane Florence in North Carolina, October’s Hurricane Michael in Panhandle Florida, November’s Camp Fires in California, and most recently, the November 30th earthquake in Alaska.  For those rebuilding after disasters, a critical step is determining the extent of structural damage that may have occurred because of high winds, floods, or seismic quakes.  As we continue our rebuilding efforts in North Florida, it is important to understand what to look for while assessing building damage.  Often the damage is hidden within the structure, and not immediately obvious. 

In response to requests from the Alaska Extension network after the November earthquakes, Dr. Kenneth Hellevang, North Dakota State University Extension Engineer, Professor, and Fellow-American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, provided the information below on how homeowners can conduct their own initial damage assessments to determine building soundness and safety after a disaster.  Although written for flooded homes, many of these guidelines apply to hurricane-damaged homes as well.

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North Dakota State University, After the Flood, News Releases: Check Buildings’ Structural Soundness

Kenneth Hellevang, Ph.D., PE, Extension Engineer, Professor, Fellow-American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers

Before attempting to restore buildings, evaluate the extent of damage and amount of repairs necessary.

The first thing to do with a building is to check its structural soundness,” says Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University agricultural engineer. “If the building has been moved, shifted or twisted, it may not be safe to enter. Also, while damage is obvious in many cases, it may not be noticeable immediately and could weaken the building or cause other problems.”

If the building has extensive damage, tearing it down and rebuilding probably will be less expensive than trying to repair it. As a rule of thumb, if repairs and restoration cost more than 60 percent of rebuilding, building a new structure generally is the best option.

To do a thorough inspection, check:

  • Ridge and eaves to make sure they are straight
  • Walls to see if they still are vertical and straight
  • The building to see if has shifted on its foundation
  • Frame members, such as knee braces, to see whether they’ve been pushed into the siding or up into the roof
  • Trusses and rafters for signs of crushed, split or broken wood
  • Frame members to make sure they haven’t buckled or twisted, aren’t bowing out of alignment and don’t appear to have slipped relative to each other or have gaps in a truss joint
  • Connections for indications that nail, screw or bolt holes are elongated and nails or other connectors are pulled out of the wood or bent
  • Pole building posts for crushed or broken wood near the ground or at truss connections or knee braces. Make sure the posts are straight and vertical. Look for indications that posts made of more than one board may have split along rows of nails.
  • Doors or windows to make sure they open as they did before. If they do not, this may indicate the structure has shifted. In cases of severe shifting, water lines, gas lines and electrical circuits may have been damaged.
  • Electrical circuits for damage
  • Siding and metal roofing for tears around fasteners, evidence of fasteners being pulled, bends or buckles in the metal roof sheets and whether the sheets still are aligned with each other
  • Wood for indications of damage that could weaken the building.

You should document any damage with photos and contact your insurance company. Also, consult with a building contractor or engineer if you see several indications of damage.

NDSU Extension specialists Carl Pedersen and Ken Hellevang review what to look for as you re-enter a flooded home in the following videos:

Flooded Home: Inspecting the Outside of the Structure

Flooded Home: Entering the Home the First Time

Flooded Home: Electrical Issues

Flooded Home: Checking Out the Mechanical Systems

Flooded Home: Drying Out

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Kenneth Hellevang
, Ph.D., PE, Extension Engineer, Professor
Fellow-American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers
Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering Department, North Dakota State University Extension Office:
ABEN 117 NDSU Dept 7620, P.O. Box 6050, Fargo, ND  58108-6050
E Mail: Kenneth.Hellevang@ndsu.edu
http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/extension-aben

Cotton Marketing News:  The Problems and the Possibilities

Cotton Marketing News: The Problems and the Possibilities

Don Shurley, Professor Emeritus of Cotton Economics

Nearby March futures seems to be working its way into a corner.  There still seems to be solid support around 77 cents but then a hurdle to negotiate (or ceiling to break through) at around 82.  March is currently around 79 cents.

Last month, I suggested that 80 cents or better would be a good target at which to do some additional pricing on a portion of remaining uncommitted production.  That still holds.  Prices have shown some willingness recently to move to 80 cents or better but have not been able to sustain it.

One would think with all the production and quality issues and uncertainties continuing to plaque the US crop, that the market would/could make a concerted move higher and stay there, but such has not yet been the case.

While the “floor” at 76 to 77 cents seems secure, at 79 to 80 cents (about where the market is now) there’s roughly 3 cents risk to the downside vs. also about 3 cents potential to the upside.  Ideally, and I know this is what growers are hoping for, a little more push to the 84-85 cent area would sure be nice.  I would consider that target #2 should we get there.

USDA’s December crop production and supply and demand estimates (released on Tuesday this week, December 11) did not provide positive news for the market.  A brief summary:

  • The US crop was raised 180,000 bales from the November estimate. Yield was lowered further in Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina but raised in Texas. The overall US yield was raised from the November estimate.
  • Projected US exports for the 2018 crop marketing year were unchanged from the November estimate.
  • The India, China, Turkey, and Pakistan crops were lowered.
  • Projected imports were unchanged for China, Bangladesh, and Vietnam.
  • World use for the 2018 crop marketing year was revised lower for the third consecutive month.

US exports for the 2018 crop year are projected at 15 million bales compared to 15.85 last season.  Given a 2.3 million bale smaller crop this year and given the tariff situation uncertainties, 15 million bales in exports would seem to be a great achievement.  Going forward, the market will certainly keep an eye on exports, because the bar has been set rather high it seems.

World use is currently pegged at 125.63 million bales.  While this would still be a record use, it is 2% lower than the almost 128 million bale estimate made back in September.  Yes, the latest estimate is still a record, but some of the air has been let out of the balloon and this undoubtedly impacts the market.  This possible erosion in demand is concerning, as with exports, the market will keep an eye on this going forward.

Fiber quality is also an issue.  Whether it manifest itself into an industry-wide marketability issue remains to be seen, but fiber quality is wreaking havoc with a significant portion of growers in the Southeast.  On top of yield losses due to hurricanes Florence and Michael, continuous rains and more recently, cold weather are delaying harvest and causing deterioration in fiber quality and subsequent financial losses.

31% of the Georgia crop was planted “late” (in June).  This compares to 20% typically.  As of November 25th, 72% had been harvested compared to 81% average and 83% last season.  Delay has worsened since then due to continued rain and wet field conditions.  As of Nov 25th, South Carolina was 16 percentage points behind normal harvest.

Lodged and twisted plants due to wind damage, delayed harvest and cold temperatures, and lack of sunshine have caused increased bark content, lower Color grades, and high Leaf grades.

In Georgia, 47% is lower than 31 in Color and Color grade has worsened weekly.  25% of the crop has a Leaf grade higher than the corresponding Color grade.  For the season thus far, 9½% of the Georgia crop has graded with bark but for the most recent week, 19%.

Southeast discounts for bark (level 1) are 400 points; mostly 100 to 300 points for Color; mostly 50 to 150 points for Leaf grade.

Farmer Stress Management After the Storm

Farmer Stress Management After the Storm

Living and working on a farm or cattle ranch offers many obstacles and opportunities to grow, change, and develop. Many farmers and producers, however, live under constant stress and anxiety of how and when decisions need to be made and the lasting effect it will have on their operation and family. Nothing could be truer than when mother nature sends powerful storms across our areas and you must bear the results of nature’s wrath. If you’ve recently traveled across Interstate 10, in the Panhandle of Florida, for roughly 100 miles between Tallahassee and Bonifay, it’s easy to see that mother nature has changed the landscape in that area forever. Hurricane Michael made landfall on October 10th and continued across the northwest section of Florida as one of the most powerful storms to ever make landfall in our country’s history. This storm affected areas known for beautiful beaches, golf resorts, and summer vacationers, but it also hit one of the more rural, agricultural sections of our state.

Jackson County hay barn destroyed by Hurricane Michael

Jackson County hay barn destroyed by Hurricane Michael. Credit; Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS

Extension agents and volunteers help producers repair fence damaged by Hurricane Michael

Extension agents and volunteers help producers repair fence damaged by Hurricane Michael. Credit Nick Simmons, UF/IFAS

I’ve seen first hand the destruction Hurricane Michael has caused to the agricultural communities in the affected counties. Miles of fence lines have 100-year-old live oaks draped across them with other sections of land having only the bottom half of once dense pine trees. Areas where cattle were once grazing are now laden with branches, power lines, sheet metal and small pieces of equipment. As water tanks emptied due to the lack of electricity, animals began to desperately find places to seek shelter and water usually running down county roads and highways. Some animals were tragically killed from structures or trees falling, or they were severely injured, and were forced to be euthanized. Producers were faced with these challenges all the while trying to find help to remove the 70 ft. pecan tree that lays across their home.

But the determination and spirit of many cattle producers, Extension faculty, local communities and towns were not taken down by Hurricane Michael. In fact, within a day or two, neighbors, agents, and fellow cattlemen showed up with chainsaws, tractors, barbwire, fence posts and much more to help affected producers. Trailer loads of hay, feed, water tanks, fence materials, and human supplies started arriving once roads were safe to pass. Extension agents from all program areas pitched in to help tarp roofs, stretch wire, cut away trees from homes, barns and fences. Water was brought in to disperse for both animals and people. Local cattlemen’s groups banded together to bring much needed supplies to help repair boundary fences and patch barns for safe use. Amid all this, one could see that a producer, who had lost everything and really did not know where to start, begin to take a deep breath of relief. I looked on as fellow producers put an arm around their friend and said, “We will get through this together.”

Extension Agents and volunteers help deliver needed supplies to livestock producers after Hurricane Michael

Extension Agents and volunteers help deliver needed supplies to livestock producers after Hurricane Michael

This was a natural disaster that will be remembered for years to come. The stress level can be overwhelming at times but remember there is help available to aid you through this difficult time. There are resources available to assist your recovery efforts.

Please reach out to these groups to help you through this difficult time.

Recovery from Hurricane Michael will take months and years to replace what has been destroyed. Producers face many tough decisions ahead, but with the help of so many Florida cattle ranchers, Extension Agents, friends and neighbors, the Panhandle of Florida will rebuild.

Gadsden County Certified Pile Burner Course – December 10

Gadsden County Certified Pile Burner Course – December 10

In response to the large amount of storm debris from Hurricane Michael, the Florida Forest Service and the University of Florida Gadsden County Extension Service will be offering a Certified Pile Burner Course in Quincy, Florida. Normally this course includes a $50 per person registration fee, but the fee has been waived to assist with storm recovery.  For the next several months, because of the risk of wildfires and the challenge of private property access, only certified pile burners will be issued commercial permits in the primary impact region of Hurricane Michael.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Class size will be limited, so register early.  This course will show you how to burn piles legally, safely, and efficiently. This training will be held from 8:30 am till 4:30 pm at the North Florida Research & Education Center, 155 Research Rd, Quincy, Florida.

There will be a test at the end of the session. You must receive a grade of 70% or higher on the exam to pass the course.  After passing the course, you will need to demonstrate a proper pile burn with approval from your local Florida Forest Service (FFS) office to become certified.

Florida’s Certified Pile Burner Training Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why should I be a certified pile burner?
A: Certified pile burners are trained to burn piles legally, safely and efficiently. Most importantly, it could save a life. Also, when the weather is dry, certified pile burners will receive priority for authorization to burn by the Florida Forest Service (FFS). Also, certified pile burners are allowed to burn up to two hours longer per day and get multiple day authorizations.

Q: What is a Pile Burner Customer Number?
A: When you call the FFS for an authorization to burn, you will be assigned a personal customer number.  This number references your information, so it doesn’t need to be gathered each time you call for an authorization. You must have your individual FFS customer number in order to be certified.

Q: Is there a test?
A: Yes, the test is 20 questions and open-book. You must receive a score of at least 70% to pass.

Q: What if I don’t pass?
A: Very few people fail the test but if you do, you will be provided another opportunity to take the test at a later date. If you fail the second time, you must re-register and take the training again.

Q: Why do you ask for my email on the application form?
A: Email is the fastest and most convenient method to inform registrants of their registration status. If no email address is provided, then all correspondence will be sent through the federal mail. This can take several days to relay messages, and this may not be practical if changes are made to the course schedule or for last minute registrations.

Q: Is there a cost for the training?
A: No. This is a special class in response to Hurricane Michael, the traditional $50 fee has been waived for these courses.

Q: How long does my certification last, and how long do I have to complete the certification from the time I finish the class?
A: As long as the person with the certification uses their number at least 5 times in a period of 5 years their certification will not expire under the current program. You MUST complete the certification burn within a year of taking the class.

Q: Will certified burners be notified if their certification expires?
A: Yes, notification will be sent out to them to let them know of their upcoming certification expiration date.

Q: Will I be certified at the end of the one-day training?
A: No, you will need to follow the written instructions that you will receive from the FFS to become certified. You will need to complete a simple burn plan, have it reviewed and approved locally by the FFS and also have the burn itself reviewed and approved by the FFS.

Q: Is there a minimum age to be a certified pile burner?
A: Yes, you must be at least 18 years old to take the test and be a certified pile burner.

Quincy Pile Burner Certification Course Registration Packet

 

For more information, contact: 

Florida Forest Service
Sabrina Willey
850-681-5900
Sabrina.Willey@FreshFromFlorida.com

Emergency Money for Farm and Business Owners Impacted by Hurricane Michael

Emergency Money for Farm and Business Owners Impacted by Hurricane Michael

Workers clearing debris

FCA Fence crew volunteers cleared debris to restore fences along highways in Jackson County. Photo credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS Extension

Over the past month every business in the impact zone of Hurricane Michael has felt the anguish of anticipating large expenses that no one had budgeted for.  There are a wide range of disaster programs to support both small businesses and farming operations.  One of the greatest challenges, however, is the immediate need for cash to get an operation going again.  For farmers, the are several disaster programs that provide 75% cost share on things like debris removal, livestock fence repair, and timber planting.  The challenge is that you have to pay the expenses first and then turn in the receipts for reimbursement.  Whether you need to hire extra labor, contractors, rent special equipment, or make immediate purchases, you may need some cash to get started while you secure the longer-term financing needed to cover theses unexpected expenses.  All of the recovery tasks seem overwhelming, but at least there are a number of agencies available to provide assistance.  The hard part is making sure people are aware wide range of services that are available to help with disaster recovery.  Thus the point of this article, there is a new program available for a short period of time worth getting more information about.

On October 12, Governor Scott activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program:

The Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program supports small businesses impacted by Hurricane Michael. The bridge loan program, managed by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), will provide short-term, interest-free loans to small businesses that experienced physical or economic damage during Hurricane Michael. The application period runs through December 31, 2018. (Governor Scott extended the deadline)

Governor Scott said, “The damage we have seen from Hurricane Michael is indescribable and unprecedented for the Panhandle. We are aggressively working to restore power in these communities so that our small businesses can get back on their feet. We will do everything we can to help our small businesses – that truly are the heart of the Panhandle. The small business bridge loan program will help small business owners and communities get back up and running and I encourage all affected business owners to apply today.”

DEO administers the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program in partnership with the Florida SBDC Network to provide cash flow to businesses damaged by a disaster. The short-term, interest-free loans help bridge the gap between the time damage is incurred and when a business secures other financial resources, including payment of insurance claims or longer-term Small Business Administration loans. Up to $10 million has been allocated for the program.

Key points of the Florida Emergency Bridge Loans:
  • For small business up to 100 employees
  • $25,000 per eligible small business with fewer than 2 employees
  • $50,000 per eligible small business with 2 to 100 employees.  Loans of up to $100,000 may be made in special cases as warranted by the need of the eligible small business.
  • Have one year to repay loan
  • Only one loan per business
  • 0% interest if repaid with in a year.   12% interest on the unpaid balance thereafter, until balance is paid in full.
  • Applications will be accepted through December 31, 2018.  (Governor Scott extended the deadline)
  • 7-10 day approval period

Sources for more information about this program:

Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program

FL Emergency Bridge Loan application form

Call the Florida Small Business Development Center Network – 866-737-7232

Vsit the FEMA Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) near you:

Bay County – DRC #11 – Bay County Public Library 898 W 11th Street, Panama City, FL 32401
Bay County – DRC # 13 – John B. Gore Park 530 Beulah Avenue, Callaway, FL 32404
Calhoun County – DRC #10 – Sam Atkins Park NW Silas Green Street, Blountstown, FL 32424
Franklin County – DRC #2 – Carrabelle Public Library 311 St. James Ave, Carrabelle, FL 32322
Gadsden County – DRC #7 – Old Gretna Elementary School 706 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Gretna, FL 32332
Gulf County – DRC #9 – Port St. Joe Library 110 Library Drive, Port St. Joe, FL 32456
Gulf County – DRC #12 Wewahitchka Town Hall 211 Hwy 71, Wewahitchka, FL 32465
Holmes County – DRC #5 – Holmes County Agricultural Center 1169 US 90, Bonifay, FL 32425
Jackson County – DRC #3 – Jackson County Extension Office 2737 Penn Ave, Marianna, FL 32448
Jackson County – Jackson County Mobile DRC Route 6910 Hall Street, Grand Ridge, FL 32442
Leon County – DRC #4 – Collins Main Library 200 West Park Avenue, Tallahassee, FL 32301
Liberty County – DRC #8 – Veterans Memorial Park 10405 NW Theo Jacobs Way, Bristol, FL 32321
Wakulla County – DRC #1 – Community One Stop 318 Shadeville Hwy, Crawfordville, FL
Washington County – DRC #6 – Washington County Agricultural Center 1424 W Jackson Ave, Chipley, FL 32428

Documentation for USDA-FSA Disaster Relief Programs

Documentation for USDA-FSA Disaster Relief Programs

 Tractor clearing debris

Following the USDA-FSA (United States Department of Agriculture-Farm Service Agency) meetings that were held across the Panhandle in response to Hurricane Michael, one word was a common factor program qualification: DOCUMENTATION!

In fact, most times it was said that producers need to “Document, Document, and Document.” But what exactly does that mean, and how exactly should it be done? And let’s face it, most of us in the agricultural industry are not the best at taking the time to write things down, especially after the storm of the century! However, in this case, it is not an option, but a necessity. In addition to pictures, work and purchase logs will be needed to fully document damage and recovery efforts.

Records should be kept for each individual USDA Farm Number. Documentation of labor and efforts will need to be recorded and broken down by farm numbers. If you do not know your farm number or need to create one, please contact your USDA-FSA office. In addition, records should be kept in detail for all work that is done by the producer and/or those that are hired out.

Work Log

Keeping detailed records of all activities related to the storm is critical for the USDA-FSA programs. Producers will not only need to log the scope of work but also record the following:

  • Date work doneCutting up a fallen tree
  • Who completed work (Self vs. Hire)
  • Rate charged (per hour/acre/tree etc.)
  • Scope of work
  • Man-hours worked
  • Size and type of equipment used (Chainsaws, generators, tractors, trucks, trailers, etc.)

This includes all chainsaw work, time spent in your tractors or dozers and other equipment that is used during storm clean up. Also, remember to log it as man hours. For example, if 3 people from your farm run chainsaws for 8 hours doing debris removal, that would be logged as 24 hours (3 men x 8 hours). In addition, include details about locations of work done and how/why it was required to maintain or restore normal operation of your farm. For example, tree removed from the field to allow for harvest equipment to enter a field, or cleanup of damaged feed barn to allow of additional feed to be delivered for livestock.

Purchase Log

Expenses from the storm can help quantify the scope of damage. Detailed records and receipts should be kept of all purchases made in relation to the disaster.  This will be key for disaster relief programs, as well as for tax purposes. These purchase/expenses could include:

  • Fence Repair Supplies
  • Fuel
  • Feed (above normal or as a replacement of lost feed)
  • Vet Supplies (Replacement of lost vaccines from power outages)
  • Capital purchases

Photographs

In addition to work and purchase logs, photographs are key documentation. These too should be kept by farm number. While taking photos, take close ups as well as wide angle pictures that help capture the vastness of the damage in addition to being able to be used to help verify the location of the pictures. If you are able to email pictures to yourself, after documenting a farm/location, email those pictures to yourself with the location and other important information to help keep images organized. This will also allow for pictures to be stored in more than one location as a backup.

Long story short, it is better to over-document, than to wish you had. Utilization of these logs will help keep records for each farm number and give your operation a great starting point when meeting with USDA-FSA program staff to report your storm damage. Detailed information about Disaster Assistance Programs are available online or by contacting local offices.  Additional information or types of documentation can be seen from the Wisconsin FSA document: Disaster Assistance Program Loss Documentation  

Copies of the Work and Purchase Logs can be downloaded for printing using the following links, or are available by mail by calling the UF/IFAS Extension Holmes County Office  850-547-1108.

Work Log

Purchase Log