(11/09/20) BELLE CHASE, La. — Citrus growers and nurseries were hit hard by the winds of Hurricane Zeta as it passed through southeast Louisiana on Oct. 28.
Navel oranges seem to have been the hardest hit citrus crop, while satsumas fared better because of the way they are attached to the trees.
LSU AgCenter horticulture agent Joe Willis said there is damage throughout the citrus growing regions in Plaquemines and surrounding parishes.
“We have some growers with up to 75% of their citrus laying on the ground,” he said.
Ben Becnel Jr., a Plaquemines Parish citrus grower, said every grower in the area took a hard hit from the storm.
“We lost at least half of our citrus crop,” Becnel said. “Normally storms come in August and September when the fruit is small, but this one came at harvest time.”
What that means is the heavier fruit this time of year falls off the tree more easily during a wind event, he said.
Becnel said he lost between 200 and 300 trees, which is about 25% of his total grove.
“We were about half finished with the satsuma harvest and about two weeks from the start of the navels,” he said. “I would say that about 20% of the fruit that stayed on the trees are damaged.”
Becnel said he will replant, but it will be several years with decreased income and increased expenses to put things back together.
Tina Roach, owner of Langridge Plant Sales about a mile away, said she also sustained substantial damage and made a promise to herself.
“Of our 26 greenhouses, we only have three roofs left,” she said. “I stayed, but I will not do that again. It seemed like four or five hours of every type of wind, and then the eye came.”
She said after a while the wind died down and the sky turned blue, so she went out checking on her animals, and then the sky turned pink.
“And just as fast as it died down, the wind came right back,” she said.
She said in addition to her buildings being destroyed, she had a huge number of poinsettias that will not be brightening up Christmas this year.
Many residents in the area were without electricity for more than a week — and without cable internet and television even longer, she said.
Willis said some of the growers are having a hard time finding materials needed to rebuild because of the pandemic.
Tina Roach, owner of Langridge Plant Sales in Belle Chasse, discusses damage done by Hurricane Zeta with LSU AgCenter horticulture agent Joe Willis. Roach said she only has three roofs left of 26 left on her greenhouses. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter
Plaquemines Parish satsuma trees suffered heavy damage from Hurricane Zeta’s winds on Oct. 28. Photo by Joe Willis/LSU AgCenter
Ben Becnel Jr., a Plaquemines Parish citrus grower, discusses his losses to the winds of Hurricane Zeta with LSU AgCenter horticulture agent Joe Willis. Becnel lost between 200 and 300 citrus trees to the storm. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter