In Wait for Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina made landfall again this morning (Aug. 29) as a Category 4 storm, striking the Louisiana coastline days after damaging parts of south Florida, particularly Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. Florida and Louisiana equine organizations had prepared information on evacuation stabling, while at least one equine disaster response team waited in Atlanta, Ga., for notice of whether it would be needed to deploy to weather-torn areas after Katrina passed.

Katrina blew through southern Florida before heading out to the Gulf of Mexico, where it gained strength. According to the latest National Weather Service report, which was released at 2pm CDT, the center of Katrina had weakened over land to a Category 1 hurricane. Katrina was "about 20 miles west-southwest of Hattiesburg, Miss.," as hurricane-spawned storms pounded Louisiana and Southern Mississippi.

A hurricane warning was in effect for the north central Gulf Coast, from Morgan City, La., eastward to the Alabama/Florida border, including the city of New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain, continued the report. All hurricane watches were discontinued at 10am CDT. A tropical storm warning remained in effect from east of the Alabama/Florida border to Indian Pass, Fla., and from west of Morgan City to Cameron, La.

The hurricane was moving north at about 18 mph, and that general motion was expected to continue today and tonight, stated the National Weather Service. On that track, the center will move over southern Mississippi today and into central Mississippi this evening. Maximum sustained had decreased to near 95 mph with higher gusts, and hurricane-force winds were expected to spread as far as 150 miles inland along the path of Katrina.

The National Weather Service encouraged residents to follow inland hurricane and tropical storm warnings from forecast offices. Some areas along Katrina's path are expected to receive five to 10 inches of rain, "with isolated maximum amounts of 15 inches." Follow the hurricane's progress at www.nws.noaa.gov.

It's unclear how many horses have been affected by Katrina, and relief information should emerge over the next several days.

Jeffrey Berk, VMD, of Ocala Equine Hospital, has been involved with equine disaster preparation in Florida over the past several years. He said Katrina luckily didn't affect his area. "Really at this point, we've been well-organized here, and we'd only contact veterinarians and horse owners in the area and the disaster response teams in case something looked like it was going to hit us directly and create a big problem here," Berk said.

The Horse attempted to contact Jim Hamilton, DVM, of Southern Pines Equine Associates in Southern Pines, N.C., and the chairman of the American Association of Equine Practitioners Disaster Preparedness Task Force. According to staff at his clinic, he had been deployed to Atlanta and will wait for the outcome of Katrina to see where his team is needed.

Berk said the unpredictability of hurricanes makes it difficult to plan where evacuations and relief will be needed. "We have to make sure that we have our own preparations in advance of any storm, keeping in mind we might need to contact (the disaster team) for assistance if in fact we do get hit," he said.

Horse owners in Louisiana can find evacuation housing for their horses at www.lahg.net or by calling the Louisiana Horseman's Guide at 888/784-8760; horse owners wishing to offer space for displaced horses should contact this number as well. In Florida, which now seems to be all-clear, horse owners can organize or volunteer evacuation housing for horses by visiting www.sshc.org/evac/index.htm.

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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