Hurricane Charley takes toll on upper Southeast

After devastating Florida, Hurricane Charley took a swipe at the upper Southeast in mid-August, knocking more than $35 million worth of crops out of production in 15 North Carolina counties, according to preliminary estimates from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture Statistics Division.

Little preliminary damage was reported in Virginia and South Carolina. “We kind of escaped this one,” said Becky Walton, director of public information at the South Carolina Department of Agriculture.

In comparison, last year's Hurricane Isabel did more than $152 million worth of damage in North Carolina.

Tobacco was the heaviest hit crop, sustaining some $15.6 million in damage on 20,992 acres, according to Bob Murphy, North Carolina state statistician.

“We've got a fair amount of tobacco knocked over,” said Pender County (N.C.) Extension agent Wayne Batten. “I've seen it worse, but it's bad enough that if we don't get it picked back up, it's going to be very difficult to harvest.” Inmate work crews were busy straightening tobacco that had been knocked over by the hurricane. “We figure we've got two weeks to salvage it.”

Corn, which some farmers were just beginning to harvest, also took a big hit. Some 263,897 acres of corn were affected, accounting for a loss of $9.7 million. Some 250,971 acres of soybeans sustained a $4.6 million loss. Cotton took a $52,535 hit on 143,684 acres. Peanuts sustained $493,490 damage on 21,270 acres. Hay farmers reported losses of $432,617. Fruits and vegetables took a hit of $4.5 million on 12,689 acres.

In addition, some 124 farm structures were damaged.

Duplin, Beaufort, Columbus, Pender, Jones, Hyde and Hertford were among the hardest-hit North Carolina counties.

A preliminary list of damage in 15 North Carolina counties:

  • Duplin: $7.4 million;
  • Beaufort: $6.9 million;
  • Columbus: $6.9 million;
  • Pender: $3.1 million;
  • Jones: $4.4 million;
  • Hyde: $1.8 million;
  • Hertford: $1.8 million;
  • Bertie: $582,414;
  • Bladen: $399,523;
  • Lenoir: $285,158;
  • New Hanover: $119,876;
  • Pamlico: $834,624;
  • Pitt: $184,882;
  • Washington: $740,274;
  • Preliminary total: $35,351,159.

(Updates are available at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service's Web site at

In Virginia, statistician Kevin Barnes says the state didn't see a lot of wind damage. However, vegetable crops suffered some damage as well as crops in low-lying areas.

In South Carolina, damage to tobacco was reported in at least one county.

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