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September 3, 2010

Hurricane Earl Edges Closer to Cape Wildlife Center

Theresa Barbo, director of the Cape Wildlife Center on Cape Cod, sends news of Earl's dramatic approach

  • Raccoons and other animals at the Cape Wildlife Center are safely sheltered and snug against the first hurricane of the season. Heather Fone/The HSUS

It’s just after 6 p.m. at the Cape Wildlife Center. My colleagues have finished securing the 4.5 acre campus, tucked into the heart of a sleepy village near Cape Cod Bay, in anticipation of Hurricane Earl.

Everyone pitched in to help. Our animal care technicians, Heather and Joy, along with our vet, Roberto “Dr. Bob” Aguilar, brought in most of the 84 animals currently in residence, who at this hour are snug against the first hurricane of this young storm season. 

Around the property, anything that could have been brought inside is now indoors: a few lawn chairs, tools, birdfeeders and rakes. Jason, our wonderful handyman, has ensured us the generator is at the ready should we lose power. We don’t think we will have to evacuate Cape Cod and plan to pass the storm at ‘home.’ And we have at least four to five days of fresh food for our animals: oranges, apples and greens for the rabbits, eggs for the raccoons, etc…

We’re about as ready as we can be. It is eerily quiet as we stand outside the front door, looking around to be sure we haven’t missed anything. Overhead, low-flung clouds shed the trademark gray patina of a coming storm. 

But this storm seems different and not like our ‘routine’ Nor’easters. The clouds seem unusually low, and it feels like the gray blanket will fall onto our heads at any moment. Even before a summer rain there’s many birds about, but not now. We look up and we don’t see any wild birds among the oak and maple trees in the front yard. The air is seemingly void of life. Even the bees and flies have vacated the air. And there’s not a speck of blue sky to see, although, ironically, just hours earlier, there were no clouds overhead and all was bright and blue, with a sun worthy of a quintessential summer day on Cape Cod. 

How quickly this night will change.

It seems something awful is about to happen at any moment. The anticipation feels like waiting for the start of a race I don’t want to run. At this hour, we’re told that Hurricane Earl might not punch Cape Cod as earlier reports had predicted. What’s in our favor is that this part of The Humane Society of the United States is not located on the south side of Cape Cod, on Nantucket Sound, but to the North, away from the southerly winds. 

But still, we worry. Dr. Roberto Aguilar, a veteran of Hurricane Katrina who has headed our Hurricane Disaster Preparedness Plan, has seen the worst of what nature has to offer. Even the best meteorologist knows how unpredictable these storms are. 

Deeper into the evening we will stand watch. We know that the thunder will begin to crack, lightning will surely light up the night sky, and mighty winds, without mercy, will snap the limbs of young oaks. Past hurricanes have toppled and uprooted large trees, and we may lose many more tonight, not to mention electricity.  

As afternoon slides into evening, there’s nothing much left to do, but hunker down and wait out the night to see what the storm brings.

Learn more about the Cape Wildlife Center»

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