The Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA) had a plan in place when news of Hurricane Ian’s landfall was announced. The storm made landfall near Cayo Costa as a category four hurricane on Sept. 28 and impacted areas like Fort Myers.
Hurricane Ian is tied for the fifth-strongest hurricane to make landfall in the United States. Eric Smith, FNGLA’s president, says they had recently dealt with Hurricane Irma and Michael, so they were ready to respond even though the planned impact area ended up being different than they initially expected.
“We initiated a relief effort immediately once the storm was passed to supply emergency goods to the affected areas, namely food, water, fuel, generators, and basic toiletries,” Smith says. “We have a disaster relief fund that was put in place after Hurricane Michael, so we were able to tap into those funds immediately.”
He says the association worked to meet the immediate needs of their impacted members in the wake of the storm by setting up two relief sites, with one in Fort Myers and one in Sarasota. FNGLA gave out five pallets of food, seven pallets of bottled water and two large trailers full of toiletries per relief site and Smith estimates they probably helped several hundred people with these supplies.
While members in the immediate area were either impacted themselves or busy with cleanup, FNGLA members from out of town were ready, willing and able to pitch in and distribute the supplies.
When the immediate needs of many of their members had been met, they had supplies left over and they took these to a SiteOne branch that serves many FNGLA members and other landscapers, where it was given out the following week.
Information about these relief sites was shared through their membership channels, email and text messaging, but Phil Buck, FNGLA’s incoming president, notes a lot of people didn’t have service in the aftermath of the hurricane, so they had to depend on word of mouth to let people know they were providing materials.
Smith says a good number of their members were impacted by this storm. While some were devastated with their buildings flattened, others were able to recover quickly.
While the UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program’s preliminary assessment estimates the horticultural crops lost as a result of the hurricane will likely be valued between $153 million and $287 million, Buck expects the nursery stock being decimated will be more of a local problem.
As for how long it typically takes for companies to recover from a hurricane, Buck says it depends on where your business is located. For some, it can be days or weeks, but others are still working to return to operations. Smith says landscape companies are often nimble enough to get back up and running quickly.
How to Help
For those wanting to assist those in the industry who were impacted, FNGLA has a Disaster Relief Fund. Smith says donating now will help replenish the fund’s expenditures from this hurricane and help them prepare for future storms.
Leading up to and after the hurricane, FNGLA solicited monetary donations as it allows them to buy the needed supplies in bulk.
“We’ve solicited material donations, clothes, canned goods and things like that,” Smith says. “Often it becomes a drag on the overall relief effort and now you have to have more people sorting and boxing and packaging and shrink wrapping and loading. While it’s certainly well intended, it creates more of a to-do whereas the monetary donations are always spent on emergency needs. That fund is only allowed to be spent on food, fuel, water and toiletries for the affected members.”
“The people in our business, we’re like a big family,” Buck says. “I think we’re all very giving, and we are looking to help each other. In FNGLA itself, we experienced that through monetary contributions and then personal time and efforts of individuals.”
FNGLA also has a Disaster Assistance page that members can visit to prepare before and after a hurricane.