By Clint Thompson
Alabama cotton farmers are surveying the damage from Hurricane Sally, which delivered heavy wind gusts and dropped excessive amounts of rainfall on Wednesday, according to Steve Brown, Alabama Extension cotton specialist.
“I talked to somebody who had talked to a consultant down near (Fairhope) yesterday and he said the cotton was flat. I talked to somebody around Pensacola (Fla.), and they have a little cotton field outside of where they live and they looked at it and said it was flat and had two feet of water in it,” Brown said. “I don’t know how far away from the coast the damage is going to be. We have a research station in Brewton. That’s probably 60 or 80 miles away from the coast and they’re without power; cotton is all tangled up.
“A lot of flat cotton and wet cotton. Some places got two feet of rain, so it’s pretty tough.”
High Winds in Fairhope
Brown said he talked to someone in Fairhope, which was among the areas hit the hardest by the storm. They reported 100 mph winds, which led to cotton plants being laid flat in some fields.
“We clearly weren’t as vulnerable as we were when (Hurricane) Michael entered (in 2018) because the crop wasn’t nearly as far along. But in the first 30 or 40 or 50 miles inland, I think it was pretty devastating as far as laying the crop flat,” Brown said. “(The crop) wasn’t so open that it blew all out. That is what happened with Michael. If it lays flat and bolls touch the ground and rot, just the tangled mess makes it extremely difficult to pick and very inefficient to pick.”
The storm made landfall on Alabama’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday morning as a Category Two hurricane. But the storm’s lack of speed allowed it to saturate much of the southern portion of the state with rainfall.
“It was so slow moving, I think that’s what was devastating,” Brown said.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture June acreage report, it showed Alabama cotton producers planted 470,000 acres, 13% less than last year’s 540,000 acres.