August 28, 2011
Hurricane Irene: Aftermath, Day 1
Our latest reports from the field
UPDATED Aug. 28, 9:20 p.m. EDT
From our Animal Rescue Team in North Carolina:
We just returned from doing an assessment of Pamlico County, NC. There are currently thousands of people who lost their homes due to flood waters exceeding 10 feet. The animal control director we worked with on a recent dogfighting case has lost his home.
One of the hardest hit areas is Lowland, a town within Pamlico County close to the coast. There, we saw major flood damage—boats in front yards, crushed cars, downed trees and debris all over. We witnessed animals who were left behind, including a horse walking down the main roadway. Luckily, we were able to capture the horse and find out where he lived. We also found a home where apparently six dogs had been chained but released. We found one of the six dogs stuck on top of debris unable to get down and we freed him. He celebrated with a roll in the grass!
Although we did not locate the other dogs, neighbors will look out for them, feeding and watering them until we can return. We were advised that other animals had been left behind and we did view stray cats and a stray dog while in the area. There is massive damage in Vandemere, Marabella, and Oriental as well, with flood waters exceeding 10 feet and in these areas we did view dogs and severely damaged homes.
In most of the areas the authorities are allowing people to return; many whom we spoke to were only coming to gather things that they could salvage, as their homes are too badly damaged. Power is expected to take more than a month to restore as the entire power grid will need to replaced.
There is no water, and no estimate of when that will be restored. We feel the hardest hit, and most needy area, at least to start, is the Lowland area.
Animal Control has received numerous requests to check on or pick up animals within the county, and the community is very appreciative of our help.
UPDATED Aug. 28, 7:24 p.m. EDT
From Theresa Barbo, director of The HSUS/Fund for Animals’ Cape Wildlife Center:
Facility and wild patients tucked in for the night. We are without power, and the phone lines are down, but the emergency generator is running; good news for the ten orphan squirrels and the American robin chick admitted today.
The 4.5 acre campus sustained minor damage due to high winds, but all patients and human caretakers are safe as Hurricane Irene departs Cape Cod. Our emergency management plans enabled us to continue operations without missing a beat.
From our Virginia state director:
80 shelters across the state with 6 pet shelters. Va. Beach SPCA took in more than 50 dogs for first responders working in the storm. Portsmouth police responded to a call from us (after we received a tip on our Twitter feed) and required a man to bring his crated, nursing dog and her two puppies in out of the storm.
Still 800,000 without power, but otherwise localities fared well, thanks to great disaster planning. Most of the shelters are closing today.
UPDATED Aug. 28, 4:22 p.m. EDT
Tropical Storm Irene continues to move up through New England. The damage it caused further south—flooding, property damage and power outages—has affected millions. The HSUS Animal Rescue Team is on the ground in hard-hit N.C., preparing to respond where we are needed the most.
A sea change in attitudes
HSUS state directors in N.C., Va., Md., N.Y., N.J., and Pa. are all working with state and local agencies to assess the needs of animals affected by Irene. They have seen a sea change in attitudes about taking care of pets in a disaster. State emergency agencies—even governors—are reminding people to evacuate with their pets, and pet friendly shelters are more available than ever. We’re not seeing animals left behind or turned away from shelters at the rate we saw after Katrina. What we’re seeing more often is people recognizing animals as valued family members—though clearly there are still animals in harm’s way.
A special shelter Craven County, N.C.
The Animal Rescue Team stayed behind in the heart of the hurricane in New Bern, N.C., to make certain that some of the dogs recently seized in two dogfighting raids in the area were safe. This month, the team worked with law enforcement on the investigation and seizure of 50 dogs from two suspected dogfighting operations. Since then, we’ve been caring for them at an emergency shelter in Craven County, N.C.
Ann Chynoweth, senior director of The HSUS' Animal Rescue Team, reports that “As Irene hit the state, our rescue staff realized that if these dogs had not been rescued, they would have likely drowned at the end of their chains.” Instead, Hazel (an elderly pit bull) survived Irene, by now so secure in her temporary home that she pushed staff off their shelter cots so she could sleep comfortably through the storm. Indeed, despite the harrowing wind and rain pounding the emergency shelter, the dogs—unlike the staff—“slept like babies, they were so happy to be safe.”
Working with law enforcement in Pamlico County, N.C.
The Animal Rescue Team has also been called on by law enforcement to assess the needs of animals in Pamlico County, N.C., one of the areas with the most significant flooding. The community has been very underserved, and many people didn’t realize they could take their beloved pets with them when they evacuated. They are now seeking assistance for those pets.
At the request of the county, we will be there to help animals in need, providing both rescue and shelter. We have also secured a facility where we can set up an emergency shelter, in the event our assistance is needed in other counties in this area of North Carolina that bore the brunt of Irene.
Caring for wildlife in Cape Cod
By Sunday morning, very high winds were sweeping across the grounds of The HSUS/Fund for Animals’ Cape Wildlife Center on north side of Cape Cod, Mass. The center decided to remain open from 9 to 5, as it does every other day, to take in sick, injured, or orphaned wildlife.
The CWC had already implemented its disaster plan, including relocating all wild patients from their outdoor enclosures to a newly-renovated building. The patients included 34 caged raccoons, opossums, squirrels, a red tailed hawk and a cooper’s hawk, and songbirds.
By 1:30, winds had taken down the power lines and the internet connection. But the generator was working, and the staff was busy caring for and feeding their patients. At almost the same time the power went down, the first Irene victims were dropped off—young grey and red squirrels blown out of their nests and orphaned. Dr. Roberto Aguilar and Laura Galan, an extern who came all the way from Spain, rehydrated and warmed the six little patients, keeping an eye out for the next orphans of the storm.
UPDATED Aug. 27
VIDEO: Irene's North Carolina approach