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MIAMI – Hurricane Ian is set to disrupt some of Florida’s major industries, including citrus production, according to an industry-leading analyst closely monitoring the Category 4 storm.
While it’s too early to tell, all eyes will be on the price of the state's recognized signature crop – citrus, Everstream Analytics' chief meteorologist Jon Davis said.
"Looking back to 2017, when Hurricane Irma hit the state, consumers saw the price of orange juice rise after growers lost up to 70% of their crops. That’s a big deal when Florida makes up nearly 60% of the nation’s total citrus acres," Davis adds.
A month after Irma made landfall, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said that Florida Citrus sustained more than $760 million in damages due to the storm.
"The biggest threat is storm surge in and around the Tampa Bay area, and the industries and population in the Tampa Bay metro area will be most impacted," Davis said.
In inland areas of the Florida Peninsula, where the agricultural belts are located, Davis forecasts heavy rains and strong winds will likely cause damage to crops. For citrus, the most important cash crop in Florida, some tree damage is possible due to winds.
"Also, most of the citrus is still on the trees, and some fruit droppage is likely due to the winds and heavy rains," Davis said. "Some of this can be recovered while some rots in the groves. Most of the citrus is still on the trees since the harvest has not yet started in any large degree."
Florida’s other major industries include aerospace, plastics, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. According to Davis, much of central and northern Florida will have business and supply chain disruptions due to heavy rains, strong winds, and major storm surge along the west coast.
"This will likely paralyze traffic on major transportation corridors, including the I-4 and I-75 highways, and could even impact railways," Davis said. "Vessel traffic through the storm’s path will be significantly disrupted as ports throughout the region have diverted vessels and some ports on Florida’s West Coast have shut down altogether."
According to Everstream Analytics, the Tampa Bay area is at high risk of widespread issues due to hurricane-force winds and a major storm surge event within the bay that will cause significant flooding. And the impact from Ian will be significant from infrastructure damage to closures.
"Facility closures could come from a range of issues such as power outages, worker availability, transportation disruptions like closed roads and bridges, and evacuations," Davis adds.
Another one of Tampa’s biggest industries is tourism. The Tampa metro area is the second-largest metro area in the state after Miami.
"It’ll be important to consider how long it will take the Tampa Bay area to get back to normal from an economic standpoint," Davis said.