“It looks like a bomb went off,” says Texas AgriLife Extension agronomist Josh McGinty, Corpus Christi.
McGinty, touring as much of the Hurricane Harvey ravaged Gulf Coast as he could get to Tuesday morning, said some of the small coastal communities look like a war zone. “Some are worse than Rockport,” he says, referring to the coastal town featured on numerous newscasts shortly after the storm made landfall last weekend and flattened much of the town as it roared ashore as a Category 4 hurricane.
“Some of these rural communities are just gone,” he adds, “and they have fewer resources.”
McGinty was speaking from the cotton gin at Bayside, Texas. “The gin is badly damaged,” he says—as are others along the Gulf Coast. Gins at Bayside and Gregory, he said, will be out of commission for the rest of the year. “The gin at Port Lavaca is in horrible shape.”
He says only 25 percent of the cotton modules on the yard at Bayside before the storm hit are left. The rest are simply gone. He said cotton torn from modules is “knee deep on the ground.”
COTTON WRAPPED AROUND POWER LINES
Some was blown upward. “I’ve never seen cotton wrapped around power lines,” he says. “I look up 50 feet off the ground and see cotton wrapped all over the power lines that are still up.”
McGinty says much of the cotton in the area had been harvested, but gins were so busy processing one of the best crops they had seen in years they could not haul modules out of the fields as quickly as they would have liked. “A lot of modules were still in place at the edge of the fields.” He said the rectangular, tarp-covered modules were more vulnerable than the tightly wrapped, round bales.
“The winds blew the tarps off those rectangular modules,” he said. The howling wind and torrential rain shredded them. Several cotton areas still rely on boll buggies and module builders, he says. Some round bales, he adds, suffered damage too, especially those that sit in standing water, and a lot are.
The devastation to cropland and harvested crops would be bad in any year, McGinty acknowledges, but the loss is particularly painful this year. “A lot of farmers say they were making a once in a decade cotton crop,” he says. “We were seeing three-and four-bale cotton. It is sad to see that get taken away.
“Our grain crops were harvested and either in the bins or the ports,” McGinty says. “They are not going anywhere for a while, with the ports closed, but farmers were not going to make money from grain anyway. We were counting on the cotton crop to save us.”
The damage may not be over. “The area received 15 to 20 inches of rain after the storm passed.” More rain is likely as a much-reduced tropical storm heads back out to sea, strengthens and makes landfall again.
McGinty lives near Corpus Christi, and says damage there was not as severe as it was for communities to the north and east. “If the storm had hit just a bit further south, Corpus Christi would have had severe damage,” he says. When he got back to his home Sunday, after evacuating ahead of Harvey, he found some limbs down and some fences damaged but nothing serious. “We didn’t get a lot of wind and only about 4 or 5 inches of rain. Most of Corpus Christi is OK. But north of here, it is awful. It is a mess. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
He says assessing property damage will take weeks, and determining crop loss may take even longer. “And we have damage in some areas that we can’t even get to yet. A lot of roads are still closed.”