Hurricane Isabel aftermath: disaster relief groups sent home


Outer Banks, N.C.?While state officials on the eastern seaboard clean up following mid-September's landfall of Hurricane Isabel, emergency efforts continue for some state animal response units in one of the heaviest hit areas. At left: Hurricane Isabel hits land off North Carolina coast, Sept. 18. Image courtesy of Accuweather, Inc.

Outer Banks, N.C.While state officials on the eastern seaboard clean up following mid-September's landfall of Hurricane Isabel, emergency efforts continue for some state animal response units in one of theheaviest hit areas.

The North Carolina State Animal Response Team (NC SART) evaluated areas on the state's Outer Banks that sufferedheavy damages and ruled that the situation is manageable, according to AmericanHumane, a nonprofit child and animal protection organization that sent reliefhelp to the area. SART is a model for a nationwide disaster relief effort partnered with the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF). The initiative is a major step toward the Foundation becoming a national leader in animal disaster preparedness and response.

As of Sept. 21, NC SART released volunteers from American Humaneand the Humane Society of the United States. American Humane will remain incontact in case services are needed.

Dr. Jim Hamilton of Southern Pines Equine Associates in N.C., isan instrumental player in the founding of NC SART. He says it was the firsttime the animal response team's capabilities were exercised in totality.

"Everything seemed to work like a well-oiledmachine," says Hamilton of NC SART's round-the-clock operations thatbegan Wednesday, Sept. 17, a day prior to Isabel's landfall.

American Humane spokesperson Anna Gonce says the disasterresponse was a "great team effort" by NC SART, HSUS, and AmericanHumane.

American Humane's Red Star Emergency Services arrived inNorth Carolina prior to Hurricane Isabel's landfall with itsRescue Rig, which offers equipment for safe, efficient animal rescues. The RescueRig provided the team with a mobile veterinary clinic; an emergency ambulance;water rescue crafts; and a communications center, satellite communications andcomputers for emergency contact. The vehicle can house 12 rescue personnel andboasts portable corrals and kennels for livestock, horses and companionanimals.

NC SART, in this particular disaster, was responsible forassessing the situation and keeping solid contact with county animal responseteams. "We were able to have a very good idea in terms of how domesticanimal population had fared," Hamilton says.

And according to Hamilton, he's not yet heard of anyanimals having to be rescued: "There were no immediate needs."

Hamilton says the biggest concern was the storm's effectson electricity. "The main concern is that this knocked out power to asmall chunk of North Carolina, a huge chunk of Virginia and some of Marylandand D.C. We're starting to see the leading edge of a number of sheltersthat are at capacity, without electricity and without proper water. Folks arehearing that electricity may not come on until the end of this week (Sept.27).

NC a target

North Carolina ranks third in number of hurricanes whippingthrough its borders in recorded history, according to The Weather Channel.

While Hurricane Floyd was most devastating to the state, when itlanded in 1999, state officials braced for the worst with the arrival ofHurricane Isabel, classified a Category 2 storm as it approached land.

North Carolina was one of four regions President Bush has issuedDisaster Declarations for, which also include Virginia, Maryland, and theDistrict of Columbia. The declaration authorizes use of federal funds andemergency resources in the storm's aftermath.

In storm's way

Dr. Sheri Nutter, companion animal practitioner near Chapel Hill,N.C., wasn't taking any chances with the arrival of Hurricane Isabel inher home state last Thursday. She sent workers home early for precautions.

"The wind gusts we're getting aren't as bad aswhat they're getting in Raleigh or at the coast. But I closed to makesure my employees got home and were safe. We tend to be a little cautious froma safety point of view for our employees," says Nutter.

Nutter, who acts as co-section chief of veterinary services forNC SART, is in charge of recruiting vets and helping get them trained andhelping mobilize if they have veterinary needs. As of Thursday in thestorm's wake, she says at least 20 veterinarians and other animal careworkers affiliated with SART were ready to roll if called upon.

"We come in if we're needed and pull out when thework is completed. Right now, we're in the middle of the hurricane. Onceit starts to subside, that's when we'll get an assessment aboutwhat's happening and see if there's any needs," she says.

Other disaster-related measures

The State Animal Response Team (SART) has coordinated a massive distribution effort of supplies, medications and feed for animals in need in the counties hardest hit by Hurricane Isabel. Staging from a centralized warehouse in Greenville, North Carolina, SART is receiving donations from across the state and nation, and moving these to locations along our coast.

Animals remain in sheltering in Bertie, Beaufort, and Martin counties.

The North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association createda special committee of veterinarians, representing various regions of thestate, to formulate a preparation plan for animals when disaster strikes next,according to an association spokesperson. Prior to Isabel's landing,association leadership sent out an e-mail to its membership briefingveterinarians on appropriate sources to call in case of animal-relatedemergencies.

Twelve county animal response teams in North Carolinaopened temporary shelters for livestock and companion animals. The facilitiesat one point during the storm housed 394 evacuated large and small animals.

One veterinarian has animals trapped on Hatteras Village and Ocracoke Island, no longer accessible by Highway 12.Supplies will be taken to her via a series of three couriers, moving the goods by means including a truck, then an SUV, and finally by boat.

SART's distribution center is accepting donations of livestock feed, companion animal food, veterinary products and medications, and other disaster related supplies.To make a donation, call Cora Tyson at (252)917-7071.Monetary donations should be mailed to SART, PO Box 33038, Raleigh, NC 27636.

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