(September 26, 2005) – As Hurricane Rita bore down on the Gulf coast, volunteers at UAN’s Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) shelters prepared for the torrential wind and rain of yet another major storm.
In preparation for Rita’s wrath, volunteers moved 133 dogs to the upper level of the farm building where they would be protected from potential flooding. But while the dogs were safe from flooding, another problem loomed. The upper level had a large, open doorway that, left uncovered, would have permitted rain and wind to enter the building. Volunteers got creative and used chain link fence panels, leashes, zip-ties and tarps to jerry-rig a massive door over the opening.
But once the 80 mph winds kicked in, the makeshift door weakened and volunteers had to use their bodies to hold it in place. Northeast Regional Director Barb Hollands, incident commander for the shelter, reported that five volunteers were lifted off the ground by one wind. All told, ten volunteers held the door in place for more than four hours, protecting the dogs from wind and rain, and very likely preventing it from blowing loose and harming the animals.
“Those volunteers saved the building and they saved the dogs,” said EARS National Director Kay Mayfield. “If that door had blown loose, it could have taken out all the kennels and the dogs in them.”
Courtesy: Anne Chadwick Williams
Calm before the storm: EARS National Director Kay Mayfield with two young residents of the Jackson shelter.
While wind battered the Monroe shelter, volunteers at the Jackson shelter were
battling heavy downpours and tornado threats.
Thanks to lots of rain through the week last week, the volunteers knew which parts of the shelter (located in a large barn) were susceptible to flooding, so they worked all day Friday to move supplies to other parts of the building and place the dog kennels on five-foot high pallets. EARS National Director Kay Mayfield estimates that volunteers moved 30,000 pounds of dog and cat food, kitty litter, water, cages and other supplies.The team improvised, using bags of dirty laundry as sandbags to prevent the water from flooding the center of the shelter, and spread carpets and tarps over the kennels to keep the dogs dry.
The storm moved in around 3 p.m. on Saturday, bringing torrential downpours that whipped rain through the building.
“When the storm moved in, it came with such a vengeance that we had to scramble to move another thirty dogs further into the building,” Mayfield said. “I have never seen such heavy rain in my life – it was just sheets and sheets of water coming down.”
Courtesy: Anne Chadwick Williams
Keeping the residents of the EARS shelters cool takes lots of “fan” power. Temperatures in Monroe and Jackson have exceeded 100 degrees every day.
The EARS volunteers, donned in their rain gear, continued to work through the storm. Fears of flooding eventually gave way to the threat of tornados. EARS volunteers had to race for cover in a cinder block building twice when a tornado siren went off. Tornadoes threatened all day on Sunday, but thankfully volunteers never saw any funnel clouds.
Now that Hurricane Rita has passed, EARS volunteers will refocus their efforts on caring for the animals, with a priority on providing needed veterinary care and reuniting animals with their owners.
Please keep up to date on our hurricane response by reading our Action Report, updated daily. If you are a trained EARS volunteer and this sounds like fun to you… please let us know of your desire to deploy!
Visit our photo journal for more images of our Katrina/Rita disaster response.