Hurricane Harvey broke records for rainfall. Hurricane Irma broke records for strength. Days after Hurricane Harvey destroyed lives and property in the areas surrounding Houston and in Louisiana, Hurricane Irma ripped through the Caribbean and Florida. The hurricanes left people and businesses struggling to normalize their lives. How are nursery professionals in Florida’s affected areas coping with this tragedy?

Florida is one of the top producers of horticulture sales. In a press release, Ben Bolusky, CEO of the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association, said almost all nurseries have lost some and some have lost all.

Irma left massive amounts of vegetative debris in her wake, Bolusky noted. If there’s a bright side to the storm’s wrath, it’s that Florida’s professional landscape professionals are in overdrive. They are playing a large and critically important role in helping to clean-up homes, commercial areas, neighborhoods and communities.

In addition, plant shipments have been resumed. Bolusky said that because Florida is a big state, the state is a resilient $21 billion economic engine. He also said that many workers were in mandatory evacuation areas so it took a while for most to return, and when they did, some faced damage to their own homes.

“Growers spent millions of dollars in pre-Irma preparation and post-Irma cleanup,” he said. “The number of available workers is insufficient for the available work, yet this dilemma is shared throughout the nation.”

Industry businesses have stepped up to help. Ambius, an interior landscaping organization, has made a foundational donation and will expedite payment of all invoices to Florida growers, regardless of due date. The donation will go to Morning Dew Tropical Plants, which created the fund with a goal of raising $100,000 to assist growers with repairs and rebuilding costs, according to a press release.

The best thing people can do to help the Florida recovery is to order plants from Florida suppliers, Bolusky suggested.

“Check with your Florida growers to learn what’s available and in what quantities. Plant inventory was tight before Irma and it’s likely to be even tighter now,” Bolusky said. “Certainly, the cost of recovery and rebuilding is expensive, so purchasing plants and paying for them in a timely fashion will go a long way.”

Bolusky noted that one of the challenges was accessible fuel.

“It was not a shortage of supply as it was the mandatory evacuation of an unprecedented 6½ million people heading out at the same time, so demand far outstripped supply,” he said. “As a result, many growers without electricity had generators, yet they ran out of the needed fuel.”

Preparedness is key to a swift recovery after a natural disaster. While it’s impossible to be fully prepared, it is possible to have a plan in place for the future. Sit down and think about what worked and what didn’t work this time. It’s crucial to have a well thought-out recovery plan ready to go for any future disasters. Make sure that every employee is aware of any procedures necessary.

How can you help?

If you’d like to help colleagues who’ve been affected by both Irma and Harvey, there are several ways to do so. Beware, however, of donation scams. Only donate to trusted organizations. Here are a few disaster relief programs as well as information resources:

The Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association set up an Excel sheet to connect those in need of assistance with volunteer help. Access it here.

USDA Disaster Assistance Programs

University of Florida IFAS Extension resource page

National Hurricane Center

#HurricaneStrong

The Texas Nursery & Landscape Association set up a Hurricane Harvey resource page.