About 3.4 million chickens and turkeys and 5,500 hogs have been killed in flooding from Florence as rising North Carolina rivers swamped dozens of farm buildings, according to state officials.
That’s almost double the animal casualties from Hurricane Matthew, which hit the area in 2016.
Farmers had moved their livestock to higher ground in preparation for the storm, but rainfall amounts and intense flooding were higher than expected.
Florence at its worst was a Category 4 storm, but made landfall as a Category 1 on the U.S. Southeast coast. It lingered over North Carolina, bringing high flooding and large storm surges. More than 30 people have died in the U.S. from the storm.
Aerial photos show widespread damage to farms in the area, which is significant because damage to hog farms can cause toxic waste to leak into the water.
In preparation for the storm, hog farmers lowered manure levels in storage pits (called lagoons), said Andrea Ashby, spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Most manure pits could handle up to 25 inches of rain, Reuters reported. Nearly three feet or 36 inches of rain fell in some places.
WATCH: Swan that lost its partner bonds with pair rescued during Florence
Inspectors haven’t been able to visit the hardest hit areas to test the toxicity of the floodwater because they remain flooded and dangerous, officials said Wednesday.
Two-thirds of North Carolina’s farm income comes from poultry and livestock, Reuters reported, including hogs and dairy cattle.
The state has 8.9 million swine, 12 per cent of the U.S. herd, U.S. Agriculture Department data showed.
In 2017, the state’s farmers raised 830.8 million chickens for meat, nine per cent of the U.S. flock, the data showed.
Many other animals were also left behind when people were asked to evacuate the affected areas.
Six dogs were found in locked in a cage and needed to be rescued as waters rose in Leland, N.C.
With files from Reuters