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south Alabama and the Wiregrass are working overtime to harvest peanuts before Tropical
Storm Karen hits the coast. The storm reached sustained maximum winds of 65
miles an hour Thursday morning and is expected to make landfall near the Florida
panhandle Saturday night or Sunday morning.
Baldwin County farmer Mark Kaiser, 46, said he is hustling to get his peanuts
dug before soaked soil bogs down his harvest plans.
"If our peanuts are ready, we're digging them," he said Thursday afternoon. "We
started today, and we're going to dig up as many of them as we can before the
rain gets here."
Kaiser, who farms with his father, George, and brother, Greg, said it's better
to have wet peanuts on top of the ground rather than bogged-down peanuts that
can't be harvested. Peanut plants are inverted and the crop usually dries a day
or two before being picked by another machine.
He said heavy rain won't affect his soybeans, which are two weeks away from
harvest, but high winds could wreak havoc on the crop.
Mobile County farmer Bert Driskell said he is busy harvesting dug peanuts, and
he's starting in fields that usually take longer to dry.
"After this storm, I imagine it will be four or five days before it's dry
enough to get back in the fields, so that will put our harvest that much more
behind," said Driskell, 68, who farms with his family. "We're still in fair
shape, but you never know with these storms. The longer the wind blows, the
less crops and trees can withstand it."
Driskell is concerned the wind will hurt his 3,400 acres of cotton. His farm
started defoliating cotton, which removes leaves from the plant prior to
harvest and can make cotton more vulnerable to wind.
Inland, Colby Willoughby of Houston County is picking peanuts, too, but he's
most concerned about his 1,350 acres of cucumbers.
"If we get more than two inches of rain, it's going to be a serious problem,"
he said. "That much rain can cause cucumbers to rot. Too much rain also makes
it impossible to get into the field to harvest the ones ready to be picked."
Coastal areas from Biloxi, Miss., to Pensacola, Fla., including Mobile and
Baldwin counties in Alabama, are under a hurricane watch until further notice.
The greatest threats with Tropical Storm Karen are coastal flooding, up to
eight inches of rain and strong winds.
Under a hurricane watch, residents should remain vigilant and prepare homes and
businesses for a possible hurricane landfall.
The National Weather Service suggests residents
three days of supplies for each person per household