The Washington Post

Hurricane Irene, tropical storm Lee swamp pumpkins, spawn mosquitoes

Hurricane Irene and the remnants of tropical storm Lee are long gone. Power is restored and flood waters have receded. But unwelcome post storm impacts are emerging. Pumpkin production has been smashed particularly north of the D.C. metro region, and mosquitoes are swarming.

Pumpkin effects

Northeastern states are facing a jack-o’-lantern shortage this Halloween after Hurricane Irene destroyed hundreds of pumpkin patches across the region, farmers say.

Wholesale prices have doubled in some places as farmers nurse their surviving pumpkin plants toward a late harvest.

Locally, however, the impact of the pumpkin crop may not be so dire. Susan Butler, one of the owners at Butler’s Orchard in Germantown, said that although her farm received more than a foot of rain, they have a “big pumpkin crop.”

“[The rain] has decreased production,” she said. “But we always plant more than we need to cushion ourselves.”

Butler said, despite the “highly unusual rain”, pumpkin pricing is unchanged from last year.

Similarly at Homestead Farm in Poolesville, pumpkin prices have not increased. Employee Steve Agricola said Lee flooded half a field and they’re keeping on eye on the rest of the fields for rot. But he said the impacts in Maryland didn’t seem to be as bad as in Pennsylvania.

Butler cautioned moisture might compromise the quality of some of the region’s pumpkins and advised consumers pick carefully this year.

“Look for a blemish-free pumpkin with a good stem and good skin,” she said.

On mosquitoes

Not surprisingly, the standing water left by Irene and Lee has been a boon for breeding mosquitoes. Reports USA Today:

[Centers for Disease Control and Prevention entomologist Janet] Conlon noted North Carolina’s Outer Banks, as well as areas of Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey and Massachusetts have been greatly affected by mosquitoes. Many affected areas have begun spraying insecticides to keep the mosquito population under control, Conlon added.

The USA Today story said West Nile Virus cases have spiked since August 1, with 121 new cases (of 202 this year).

Have you noticed rampant mosquitoes locally? I sure have...

Related: Eaten by Aedes: The buzz on summer mosquitoes

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.


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