We are at a point where mean temperatures are rising, summers are coming earlier and lasting longer, night time temperatures are elevated, and ocean temperatures are rising. For those of us who live near water, we have to broaden the scope of our golf course preparation beyond basic agronomics.
On top of all the regular agronomic duties, from managing disease, irrigation and water, and certainly golfers – we now find ourselves even more at risk from tropical storms and hurricanes.
This definitely puts a crimp in our patience and our budgets. Do we now have a budget line item for storm clean-up and repair? Think about it: Was your top dressing washed away? Was your chemical supply ruined? How long will you be closed? What are your lost revenues going to add up to?
Every state superintendent association has its own preparedness agenda and abundant information outlining of what to do before, during and after Category 1, 2 or 3 storms. Tropical storms and hurricanes are not limited to the southern states either. I experienced Hurricane Sandy while living in New Jersey and Hurricane Matthew here in Hilton Head. It’s not fun.
A few observations:
Be compassionate. Your staff has family and property to care for and worry about, as do you.
And, when the governor issues an evacuation order, you are in no position to counteract this directive – whether you agree or not.
Plan ahead. Are all the operating features of your golf course maintenance area in good shape: pump stations, irrigation, drainage systems, spillways, maintenance center, equipment and even, your important documents, and computer.
Take a serious look at your maintenance facility and envision what it would look like under three to five feet of water. What would be lost and where would you move your assets to? Besides checking the stability of your systems and features, what is the evacuation plan for your equipment, chemicals, and tools. Where do these items get moved to keep them out of harm’s way?
Fortunately, with hurricanes, there is plenty of advance notice and warning as the path of the storm becomes more formed.
In the planning ahead department, do you have vendors who will be ready to assist you and bring in heavy equipment to clear roads, move large trees and branches, inspect bridges for safety, check on the golf cart fleet for water damage. Contact them prior to the storm and prepay them to be onsite immediately and as soon as it is safe to be on the course.
Water Quality. Remember, too much flood water can upset course water quality; drinking water which becomes a big issue particularly where salt is present.
Insurance. What is the level of property and flood insurance that your club holds? Does it replace what is lost? What is the deductible? Remember, it takes a long time to get in line for the insurance inspector, to file claims, to negotiate and most of all, to received payment from your insurance company.
Weather Watchers. We’re weather geeks and addicted to the Weather Channel, Wunderground or other apps. As we learned firsthand, the constant barrage of information and minutiae, over dramatization by the “talent” spoke to a race for eyeballs and tv ratings. Words like “catastrophic”, “storm of a lifetime” and “never before seen” drive panic and angst. Know where you stand in relation to the eye of the storm.
In the case of Florence, the National Hurricane Center was totally accurate as to where the storm would make landfall. Be careful who you listen to and study your geography. Much of South Carolina came out unscathed and yet, Weather Channel’s frequent mentions of the Carolinas coast getting hammered wreaked havoc on businesses and lives throughout South Carolina.
Find a local weather station and follow them. Find out which meteorologist is most accurate on an ongoing basis. Follow people who are focused on your micro market.
Generosity. If you are in another state and your buddy in the hurricane zone has lost key equipment and resources, what can you send to him/her to start the repair process? The Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association has already started this outreach.
It is at times like this that the generosity of the superintendent shines and I am most proud to be part of this fraternity.