LOXAHATCHEE, Fla. — Tropical Storm Isaac’s floods led to the disappearance of several thousand plants at Dave Self’s Wyld West Nursery.
“I probably had 5,000 of my plants just up and float down the river,” Self said Thursday.
Water has not yet receded from the nursery’s two locations on either side of 161st Terrace North in Loxahatchee. The power had been out since Monday, and since the deluge ended, Self said he’s had to hand water the remaining plants using a four-gallon backpack sprayer.
Like the owners of the rest Palm Beach County’s 450 or so plant nurseries, Self needs more time to assess the damage the storm left behind, but it appears to be extensive and substantial.
Bill Schall, Palm Beach County commercial horticulture extension agent, said Thursday that storm damage is severe in the industry with revenues of about $170 million a year. Shell-shocked growers are salvaging what they can.
“Losses will be in the millions of dollars. It will be easily into the tens of millions,” Schall said, giving a rough estimate.
“There’s a large amount of water, and it’s not going away fast,” Schall said.
Even growers who fared better, in such areas as west of Boynton Beach and Delray Beach, where water drained more quickly, could lose 25 percent of their inventory, Schall said.
“Growers have tried to move as much as they could to higher ground. Some of it is so wet and deep, they cannot get into it. It turns into a soupy mess of soil and plants,” Schall said. “Then we have the rot problems that will set in. That can go through a nursery pretty quickly and devastatingly.”
In the last few years, the area’s ornamental horticulture industry has suffered with the housing downturn and has endured everything from hurricanes to freezes.
Richard Kern, president of Southeast Growers, which ships plants to every state, Europe and Japan, said its Wellington location received at least 20 inches of rain. Some of the 30,000 trees in pots as large as 300 gallons, blew over. Fortunately, that did not happen at its Pahokee nursery.
Workers have been lifting the plants so they will be dry.
“If we wait for the water to go down, we will have too much damage,” Kern said.
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