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The big chill
National Report - Ice storms pummeled parts of the country for six days last month, leaving in their wake several deaths, extensive power outages, highway closings, citrus crop damage and record-setting cold temperatures.
NATIONAL REPORT — Ice storms pummeled parts of the country for six days last month, leaving in their wake several deaths, extensive power outages, highway closings, citrus crop damage and record-setting cold temperatures.
Cold hands, warm hearts: All Creatures Pet Hospital technician Bridget Lacy, left, and Dr. Nicole Jesky wore winter coats and relied on skylights for illumination during their long power outage, reserving their generator power to keep boarded animals warm.
While small and companion-animal veterinary practices handled limited emergencies and animal-trauma cases in the cold and dark, emergency large animal veterinarian teams were sent into the field to assess animal losses, estimated in the tens of thousands, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Small animal veterinarians turned, if needed, to state emergency response divisions for any required assistance with their practice, says Dr. Cindy Lovern, AVMA Assistant Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response. But it was the large-animal DVMs that were left struggling to assist animals like horses, pigs and, most importantly, cattle. Kansas faced losses of 1 percent to 2 percent of its 3.7 million cattle population, says Barry Pittman, DVM and USDA Veterinary Services Emergency Coordinator in the Topeka office.
"Right now, the main agricultural impact is going to be trying to recondition the cattle that were impacted. They weren't able to feed those animals for fattening, and they were dragging around a lot of mud and ice, so they may not be able get into the condition they need to," Pittman says.
Many companion-animal practice veterinarians battled long power outages that impacted animal care. At the All Creatures Pet Hospital in Springfield, Mo., Nicole Jesky, one of two practice DVMs, says the hospital lost power Jan. 12 when the ice storm hit, and six days later the facility was still relying on natural light through skylights during the day and generator power at night to keep temperatures above freezing.
She and her colleagues wore layers of clothing under their coats and hats, leaving the generator running only in a small back room to make sure the 10 dogs and cats they were boarding stayed warm.
Generator power is limited, explains Jesky, whose kitchen refrigerator is packed with hundreds of hospital vaccines that were at risk of spoiling without proper refrigeration.
At press time, the hospital was continuing to see animals for treatment and emergency, but was limited because some equipment was down, including X-ray machines, lab equipment to analyze blood work and computers that hold patient records.
"It has been an adventure for us, just trying to figure out what we need to do, what we can do and how to stay warm," Jesky says.
Meanwhile, the Hometown Veterinary Hospital, also in Springfield, Mo., was more fortunate. It lost power only for several hours and has been helping clinics slowed by outages by treating emergencies and referred clients, says Kara Amstutz, DVM.
She has seen patients throughout the area, including some with sprained joints from slipping on ice and others with gastrointestinal problems related to improvised feeding.
Although her practice is up and running, she hasn't been as lucky at home, with her power out for almost a week. She has been staying at the clinic with her five dogs and five cats among the 15 animals the facility is boarding. "I'm really lucky to have that option," Amstutz says.
The clinic's regular clients are taking advantage of the sustained power as well, often bringing their animals into the practice during regular business hours to help keep them warm when power is lacking at home.