Hurricane Frederic punched the pecan industry in 1979

Weather

Silverhill Ala., (WKRG)

HURRICANE FREDERIC’S IMPACTS IN 1979 WERE BEYOND HOMES AND BUSINESSES. PECAN FARMERS LOST TREES. THAT WAS A LONG-TIME STRONG INDUSTRY ALONG THE COAST.

Frederic toppled tremendous numbers of trees. It wasn’t just pines, it was also pecans. It was a hit to the pecan industry. Gary Underwood farms pecans and he shared his perspective.

GARY UNDERWOOD: A lot of farmers, especially if the farmers, their children were not involved in the farm, uh several places it would take out 70, 80, 90 percent of the trees, they just took a bulldozer, backhoe, and they just took them up and they started to row crop.

Leslie Hatchett and his father-in-law own 250 acres of pecan trees in Mobile County. What about the damage? It’s going to cost you, figuring about a half a million dollars over the next 5 years. How are you going to recoup that? LESLIE HATCHETT: “There’s really no way, in my lifetime”.

Prior to Frederic, we were doing quite of a lot, tens of millions of pounds, in Baldwin and Mobile County. And then after Hurricane Frederic it dropped down to less than 20 million, probably around 15 or 10 million.

STUART KELLOGG: The damage in Mobile and Baldwin Counties is extensive and it will take decades for pecan production here to get back to normal. Pecans are such a long-term thing that we estimate it will be at least 20 years before Mobile and Baldwin County are back in production anything like they were before the hurricane.

Losses to the pecan crop and trees in Mobile and Baldwin Counties was 60 million dollars. That would be well-over 200 million in today’s dollars.

Before Frederic hit, these trees were filled with leaves and nuts and farmers were expecting to harvest a good crop. Now, few trees stand.

Cleanup took a long time after Frederic.

Pecans were the cash crop for Clifford Street and his brothers, but when Frederic totaled 85% of their groves, the brothers turned to soybeans and corn for the future.

A lot of people gave up on the pecan industry, yes. And in about 3 years after Frederic, we started getting back into production for pecans and stuff. But Baldwin and Mobile County still produces more pecans than the rest of the state of Alabama and we always have.

Alan Sealls, News 5

MR. UNDERWOOD SAYS THAT RESEARCH AND KNOWLEDGE OF CULTIVATING STRONGER AND HEALTHIER PECAN TREES MAY LESSEN THE NUMBER THAT ARE LOST IN THE NEXT BIG HURRICANE BUT IT WON’T PREVENT IT.

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