Assessing Ivan's Damage

Hurricane Ivan made furious landfall near Gulf Shores, Ala., early yesterday, tearing into the landscape with winds of up to130 mph, causing coastal storm surge flooding, and spurring tornadoes in several southeastern states. As of Friday morning, little is known about how horses fared in the hurricane. The opinion of many is that horse owners were able to get their horses out of harm's way after lessons learned from earlier experiences with hurricanes, but it will be several days before veterinarians can adequately assess the hurricane's effect on horses.

Dana Zimmel, DVM, Florida emergency communication contact for the AAEP's Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Committee and an assistant professor at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, said Thursday evening, "We had a conference call with the state veterinarian, and he can't really give us any details about animal injury other than a lot of poultry farms have been affected because the infrastructure is so bad they can't even get in there to assess the area. So, I don't have any comments about horse injuries.

"I don't think we'll be deployed to that area if we go until probably at least a couple more days, and VMAT people (the American Veterinary Medical Association's Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams) may go instead of us," she added.

By Thursday afternoon, Ivan had passed and many horse owners who had moved their animals to higher ground were heading back to their farms, or what might be left of them. Ed Wesson, assistant director of the Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery, Ala., said on Thursday evening that coliseum barns had housed 100 horses during Ivan, and that facility was only moderately affected by winds, which gusted up to 66 mph.

"We had some barns that had some tin (from the roofs) blow off, but it's nothing from the standpoint of any of them being destroyed," he said. "A good bit of barn roof will have to be replaced."

Wesson said that many of the horses at the evacuation facility came from Baldwin County, Ala., and from the panhandle of Florida, specifically, the Destin area. Many horses have already checked out, depending on their area of origin.

"A lot of officials have been telling horse owners not to come back (home) until Friday," said Wesson. "They want to make sure the roads are clear and the power lines are out of the way. I'd assume that most would head out tomorrow."

Ivan is now considered a tropical depression, with maximum sustained winds of 20 mph with some higher gusts, according to the National Weather Service Tropical Prediction Center. At 5:00 am today (Friday, Sept. 17), Ivan was near Chattanooga, Tenn., and was moving northeasterly at 10 mph. "Flash flood warnings are in effect for southern and central Appalachians from portions of eastern and central Tennessee, central and western South Carolina, central and western North Carolina, eastern Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, portions of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and southeastern Ohio," stated the public advisory.

Rainfall of four to seven inches is expected with isolated heavier amounts in some areas.

A majority of the equine veterinarians and extension agents in areas affected by Ivan could not be reached by telephone Thursday or Friday. The Horse will post more details on the status of horses post-Ivan when information becomes available.


About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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