Damage tally from Floyd rises, as farms remain submerged

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The soybean and peanut plants that once blanketed James Pope's farm now sit rotting in the ground, immersed in water the color of chocolate.

Dozens of his corn stalks have been reduced to brown, six-foot tangles, toppled by the wind. And half of his tobacco crop has withered, its football-size leaves blown away or soaked when hurricane Floyd pounded this eastern farming community about 50 miles outside Raleigh, N.C.

"I got fields I can't even walk in," says Mr. Pope, who estimates about $30,000 in damage, nearly half his annual income. "It's hard to make a living to begin with, and when something like Floyd comes along, it can put you out of business."

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As the East Coast recovers from Floyd's torrential rains and flooding, a fuller picture of the hurricane's impact is emerging.

In North Carolina, the hardest-hit state, entire towns were still submerged days after the storm, while in parts of New Jersey, problems with the water service meant residents had to boil water before using it. At the beginning of the week, officials had attributed at least 49 deaths to the storm and more than 300,000 people from the Carolinas to New York were without power.

Now, with more rain coming, farmers are finding that their land is also a hurricane casualty.

"I am overwhelmed by the level of flooding," said James Graham, North Carolina's agriculture commissioner. "Most farmers are still unable to gain full access to their property to determine the extent of the damage."

Much of the state's cotton crops and three-quarters of its corn and soybeans are grown in the eastern region - the area most severely damaged. Farther inland, crops have been swallowed by overflowing rivers left by 10 to 20 inches of rain. The flooding was the worst in state history.

The hurricane is the latest in a long line of challenges that farmers here have faced. Depressed farm prices and major lawsuits against tobacco companies have hurt the state economy. A long drought compromised crops earlier this summer, and then a few weeks ago, tropical storm Dennis caused $37 million in damage.

According to one state agriculture official, the dollar-damage estimate for Floyd looks as if it will exceed the $344 million farmers lost in 1996 after hurricane Fran.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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