Horse Owners Brace for Tropical Storm Hanna

From Charleston to Chincoteague, horse owners along the southern East Coast are battening down the hatches as Tropical Storm Hanna heads their way.

Vacillating between a strong tropical storm and a Category 1 hurricane, Hanna is expected to strengthen slightly before making landfall around Myrtle Beach, S.C., tonight. Forecasts show the storm will cruise up through the Carolinas Saturday morning and continue up the coast to the mid-Atlantic region and New England by Sunday.

According to an advisory released by the National Hurricane Center today, Hanna featured sustained winds near 70 mph. The storm was expected to cause coastal storm surge flooding of 4 to 6 feet above normal tide levels, and to produce 3 to 7 inches of rain in regions stretching from coastal South Carolina through Pennsylvania. Isolated tornadoes are also possible in the Carolinas, the forecast noted.

On Yonges Island, about 24 miles south of Charleston, S.C., the veterinarians at Edisto Equine Clinic were planning to get off the road by 4 p.m. on Friday, according to Veterinary Technician Melissa Corley.

"It floods down here really quick--it floods when have regular rain," Corley said. "We're not underwater yet, but we're expecting we will be at some point."

She said the clinic was advising most area horse owners to stay put.

"As long as it's under a Category 1, we're just telling them to turn the horses out," Corley said. "If it gets to a Category 2, we tell them to move a little further inland where the conditions aren't as bad. As long as it stays like it is now, nobody's evacuating, we're just taking some precautions."

Further inland, Larkin Steele, Founder of Equine Rescue of Aiken, S.C., was preparing the nearly 60 horses at her farm to ride out the storm at home.

"Everybody's planning to stick around," Steele said. "Most people are just making sure everything's right at their barn."

Some of their tasks might include "getting any loose material that's out anywhere and putting that in a safe place," Steele said. "Filling up water, making sure you have a generator in case the pumps go off for days--carrying water is not fun."

As horse owners in that area were dealt a severe drought last summer, Steele said she's glad to see the rain, even if it does arrive in dramatic fashion.

The U.S. Drought Monitor currently shows a moderate to severe drought extending across much of Georgia and the Carolinas, with the drought conditions in part of western South Carolina deemed "exceptional"--the worst possible ranking.

Chincoteague pony

One of the wild ponies of Assateague Island.

Further north, the wild ponies of Assateague Island, on the Maryland-Virginia line, will be left largely to their own devices during the storm. Roe Terry, public relations officer for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which manages the ponies, said the ponies will be given free rein over the beach to choose their own area to weather the storm.

The Fire Company, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, and the National Park Service work together to monitor the ponies during and after storm events.

"The main thing Fish & Wildlife does is make sure all the gates are opened to make sure the ponies have free range of pretty much the whole beach," Terry said. "They know where the high ground is and where the leeward side is, and the sand dunes.

"Normally they take care of themselves," he said. "We'll be going over periodically and monitoring them, but we let them move themselves and then when the storm's over we go over and check them out."

He expects the herd of 150 ponies to come through Hanna without incident.

"With this little bit of storm coming over right now, we don't anticipate any problems at all."

About the Author

Erin Ryder

Erin Ryder is a former news editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care. She owns a portly gray gelding named Duncan and dabbles in several equestrian disciplines, with an emphasis on dressage.

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