Hurricane Matthew was a devastating storm.
More than 1,000 people died in Haiti, with much of the country still in need of aid. At least thirty-four people died because of the storm in the US, 19 of them in North Carolina, where floodwaters are still rising days after the storm.
But the human toll isn’t the end of the devastation North Carolinians will have to deal with.
The Washington Post reports that farmers will need to clean up “at least tens of thousands” of drowned livestock carcasses after floodwaters from Hurricane Matthew washed over factory farms.
In addition to swamping homes and roads in Cumberland and Roberson counties in the state, helicopter surveys show floodwaters reached several facilities where animals are kept, the Post reports. Reuters reports 50,000 fewer hogs were slaughtered nationally on Monday, mostly due to plant closures in North Carolina.
The majority of dead livestock are likely chickens and pigs.
The sheer volume of carcasses can pose a serious public health hazard, the Post reports, and Governor Pat McCrory has promised a rapid cleanup.
As local NBC News affiliated WECT 6 reports, dead animals aren’t the only danger as water spills across factory farms.
The flood waters could breach some, if not many, of the hundreds of hog lagoons and poultry waste piles scattered across our region….
“This is just a big massive pit of hog feces and urine,” [Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kemp] Burdette explained of your typical hog lagoon. “The animals that are confined to those [neighboring] barns can literally drown inside the barns which we saw in Hurricane Floyd…. Eventually the barns can be damaged enough that the animals literally float out. And there were plenty of stories during hurricane Floyd of full grown dead hogs floating down rivers.”
Back in 1999, Hurricane Floyd flooded large portions of North Carolina, killing 3 million chickens and turkeys and more than 30,000 hogs.
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has set up a hotline for farmers who need help after the storm.