Hurricane Michael

Downed Pecan trees after Hurricane Michael
Mitch Bulger/Pine Knoll Pecan Plantation

Georgia’s pecan crop is still recovering following Hurricane Michael in 2018.

Crop estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show Georgia’s pecan harvest was cut nearly  in half last year.

On this Special Edition of Political Rewind, it’s a look at the biggest political stories of 2019.  A new governor put his unique stamp on Georgia, an unexpected resignation put the state front and center in the race for Senate, and two Georgia members of Congress announced their departures. 

Grant Blankenship / GPB

The end of the year outlook for Georgia’s main nut crop is mixed. And you can blame both the weather and Chinese tariffs.

Southwest Georgia pecan growers are harvesting as little as 20% of their average crop this year thanks to Hurricane Michael, the storm that downed thousands of trees in 2018. That’s according to Lenny Wells, pecan expert with the UGA Agricultural Extension Service. And while he says, sure, that sounds bad, he’s says he’s still feeling pretty good about 2020.

Grant Blankenship / GPB News

A couple days after Hurricane Michael struck, Georgia farmer Phillip Buckhalter went out to survey what remained of a neighbor’s cotton field in Early County near Jakin.

The morning before the major hurricane, Phillip and his son had helped picked as much cotton as they could for their neighbor in order to save as much of the crop as possible. As Buckhalter approached the fields in southwest Georgia, he saw the damage to the crop was severe.

David Goldman / AP

On this special edition of Political Rewind, how are farmers coping in the year since Hurricane Michael?

Grant Blankenship/ GPB

Georgia farmers who have suffered economically from Hurricane Michael or other recent weather events can begin applying for a piece of $3 billion in federal aid.

The money from what is called the WHIP plus program was authorized by President Trump back in June and is available for farmers hurt by weather as far back as Tropical Storm Cindy in 2017.

Grant Blankenship/ GPB

Georgia pecan farmers are figuring out the next steps in the recovery from Hurricane Michael after losing $250 million in trees.

Texas GOP Rep. Chip Roy objected to speeding the measure through a nearly empty chamber and complained that it does not contain any of President Donald Trump's $4.5 billion request for border wall funding.

On this edition of Political Rewind, after months of delay, the U.S Senate approved a disaster relief package that would send relief money to Georgia and other states hit by natural disasters. However, in the House of Representatives, Texas Rep. Chip Roy blocked the measure.

Grant Blankenship / GPB News

The House has passed a $19 billion disaster aid bill that would deliver long-sought relief to farmers, victims of hurricanes and floods, and rebuild southern military bases. Democrats controlling the chamber are trying to dislodge the legislation from a Senate logjam over aid to hurricane-slammed Puerto Rico.

The National Hurricane Center upgraded Hurricane Michael to a Category 5 storm when it made landfall.   

The Center released its post storm analysis in a report released Friday.  The upgrade made Michael the first storm to reach Category 5 since Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992. It's only the fourth time a hurricane that size has been recorded. 

Georgia Department of Agriculture

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said he was extremely disappointed a disaster relief bill failed to clear the U.S. Senate earlier this week.

Much of the $13.45 billion relief package was set to help farmers impacted by Hurricane Michael.

Speaking in Newnan Friday, Perdue said he's just as frustrated as those affected.

Rebecca Hammel / U.S. Senate Photographic Studio

Some Georgia farmers say they’re worried they’ll lose land that’s been in their families for generations after hurricanes and tariff hikes wiped out their crops and reserve cash.  Federal leaders promise to help, but farm loans are coming due, and disaster relief has yet to arrive.

Courtesy of AP Images

It takes about a decade to grow a productive pecan tree and a matter of minutes to take one down. A University of Georgia specialist estimates Hurricane Michael's 100 mph winds left 75 percent of pecan crops unharvestable in several south Georgia counties. UGA also estimates a total of $2 billion in losses to the state's agriculture industry.

Five months after the storm, many farmers are still picking up the pieces. "On Second Thought" has been following up with growers ever since the storm. Randy Hudson's family has run Hudson Pecan Company in Irwin County for more than 150 years. Rob Cohen owns Pecan Ridge Plantation in Decatur County. He's been in the family business for several decades. Cohen and Hudson gave updates on their crops as a new season begins.

David Goldman / AP Photo/File

As people across the state continue to clean up from Sunday’s tornadoes, Georgia lawmakers continue to push for more federal disaster relief funding.


Grant Blankenship / GPB

People and industries spread across 20 counties in southwest Georgia are still looking for aid in recovering from Hurricane Michael.  And the challenges for families trying to get back on their feet has prompted a first ever use of a welfare benefit as disaster aid.

Brian Kemp, center, walks with President Donald Trump, right, and Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga) as Trump arrives for a rally in Macon.
John Bazemore / AP Photo

U.S. Sen. David Perdue told members of the Georgia House of Representatives that he expects a disaster relief package to help victims devastated by Hurricane Michael to be signed by the president this week.

Grant Blankenship | GPB News

The state House passed an amended budget for the current 2019 fiscal year.

The so-called “little budget” updates spending through June 30 and passed with only 8 "no" votes.

Andy Harrison / Georgia Department of Agriculture

Casey Cox is a sixth-generation farmer. She returned to Camilla, in southwest Georgia, after graduating from the University of Florida in 2013. Since then, she's continued the tasks that make up her family tradition.

It’s that commitment to the land and her family’s legacy that makes recovering from events such as a hurricane or a trade war a necessity. It’s also why the conversation has shifted to farmers’ mental health.

Public Domain

Friday marks 21 days into the partial government shutdown, with little sign of resolution. Earlier this week, President Donald Trump made a prime-time appeal to fund the border wall, which is the sticking point. On Wednesday, he walked out of a meeting with congressional leaders. Democrats said Trump threw a "temper tantrum."


If one more political event occurs before the year’s end, 2018 may just burst at the seams.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

While the year is winding down, cleanup continues in southwest Georgia from Hurricane Michael. But, it likely won't last long past the new year. 


U.S Fish & Wildlife Federation

Hurricane Michael damaged and destroyed hundreds of houses in southwest Georgia, but the storm also left some wildlife without a home.

The state agency charged with making sure Georgia’s families have the necessities for living will issue disaster benefits in Southwest Georgia communities hit by Hurricane Michael. 


The month of emergency food benefits for many in South Georgia is over.

Grant Blankenship / GPB News

Gov. Nathan Deal signed a trio of bills on Saturday that provide some financial relief to Georgians affected by Hurricane Michael and ratified an executive order suspending sales tax on jet fuel June 30.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Say what you will about the Pilgrim legend, but Thanksgiving at its heart is a holiday about food. But for many people of southwest Georgia still recovering from Hurricane Michael, food is hard to come by, not just this holiday week but likely well into the future.

GPB’s Grant Blankenship spoke with Eliza McCall of the Second Harvest of South Georgia food bank about the challenges to alleviating hunger after the hurricane. This conversation has been edited for clarity.

The Georgia General Assembly session begins on January 14, 2019.
Ken Lund / Creative Commons

Georgia lawmakers have kicked off a special session of the state legislature to tackle two major bills before the next session begins in January. 

The main focus would amend the state's budget to add nearly $270 million to help farmers and others in Southwest Georgia recover from Hurricane Michael. 

Mitch Bulger / Pine Knoll Pecan Plantation

Gov. Nathan Deal called a special legislative session starting Nov. 13 to discuss relief efforts for Hurricane Michael damage. Farmers in southwest Georgia were hit especially hard. Ricky Dollison, from Dollison Farms in Worth County, said he lost thirty pigs in one night and is still working to salvage swine.

He and farmer Casey Cox, from Longleaf Ridge in Mitchell County, joined "On Second Thought" to discuss their hopes for the special legislative session. They also shared how reconstruction efforts on their farms are going a month out from the hurricane.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Some students in Seminole County returned to school Monday for the first time since Hurricane Michael hit in early October.

Grant Blankenship / GPB News

A shingled-roof, white gazebo sits in the square in downtown Bainbridge. Roslyn Palmer has spent a lot of time there. 

She’s been on the city council for more than 30 years, close to half her life. About a month after Hurricane Michael tore through the southwest, Palmer surveyed the damage it had done to the small town.

“It’s the worst I’ve ever seen,” Palmer said. “I hope I don’t see another one like this in my lifetime.”

Grant Blankenship / GPB News

Laura Hutchins was greeted by shattered glass and a tree in the middle of her classroom when she returned to Potter Street Elementary School where she teaches kindergarten. She was heartbroken for her students by what she saw.

“The place that they come to every morning and come running in the door,” Hutchins recalled. “There just really are no words.”