Vet on Hurricanes: The Ripples are Impressive

Sonny Corley, DVM, of Acadiana Equine Clinic in Lafayette, La., climbed a fence to leave another note Tuesday night on the door of the clinic belonging to Johnny Reina, DVM, in Lake Charles, La. He had visited the hurricane-damaged site three days in a row and hadn't caught up with Reina yet. Interrupted phone services are just one symptom of the general disarray following Hurricane Rita’s strike on the area Saturday, Sept. 24.
"His clinic is not as bad as Dr. (Larry) Findley's practice over in Vinton, who lost everything," said Corley. "The roof is gone on off of all (Findley's) barns, his clinic, everything." Findley was planning to build a new clinic, so that will happen sooner than expected, but he has no place to work in the meantime.

The remains of Findley's clinic stand next to the Delta Downs racetrack, which also took a beating during Rita. "I haven't been on the backside because there are no horses there," Corley said, "but when I went by, I saw that there is not one barn that is untouched, and all have the roofs down."
"Vinton probably took the hardest hit of any place east of the Sabine River (which divides Louisiana and Texas)," he added.

Echoing the statements of other veterinarians on Rita's impact, Corley said, "This is not going to be like Katrina, because there's not the standing water. The real detriment and the thing that slows you down is water. But here (in southwestern Louisiana) the water can come, but it can't stay. It's a function of elevation--especially down in Vermilion Parish and Cameron Parish, the water can come up but it goes back with the tide as soon as the storm surge is pushed on. In New Orleans, the water can't go away.”

But he says the wind damage makes Rita just as severe as Katrina. "There are trees knocked over and of course sheet metal on barns that the wind eats right up," he said. "Trees are down, power lines are down, which translates to--especially in the rural environment--people not having electricity to run the water well.

"It's going to be a challenge for awhile, but we've done it before, so we'll do it again," Corley added. Fortunately, Corley himself only lost a few shingles on his roof during Rita. "We don't have electricity yet, but we're all right. Last time, during (Hurricane) Lily, we lost the chimney.

"The thing that I don’t think that people from outside Louisiana, south Texas, and the Gulf Coast in general, understand is that Gulf Coast people know that you can get a hurricane this week and you can get one next week, too," Corley said. "If you're going to live here, you're going to deal with it, that's all there is to it.

"You wouldn't wish this on anyone," Corley added.

Victims are going to need help. The fact that at least two racetracks were severely damaged by the hurricanes makes Corley wonder what racehorse owners and veterinarians are going to do. "The economic impact on the horsemen that are unable to run their horses? It gets really expensive, really quick. The ripples are impressive."

All funds donated to the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association's Equine Committee will go to the horse owners and veterinarians affected by Katrina and Rita and to pay for the supplies required for horse care. None of the money will be kept for administration purposes.

Corley, who helped organize the fund and also spent time rescuing equines from New Orleans a few weeks back, said he's been inspired by the horse industry's generosity and willingness to work hard in helping others. "The overwhelming need is matched by the overwhelming response of the people,” he said. “It's just really impressive when you're on the receiving end. We lived through Andrew and Lily since I've been living in Lafayette, and we've had both those hurricanes come right at us. Those were pretty much on a par with what Rita's done over here.”

But the recovery effort has been--and continues to be--impressive.

"In 30 days you'd be surprised at how much improvement can be done by just cleaning up, picking up, getting the trees out, the power lines back up, and getting the roofs back on the barn," he said. "It'll happen, and as bad as it looks right now, it gets cleaned up and people move back on with their lives.

"Talk about above and beyond, the (rescue) crews down there (after Katrina) did a lot," he added. "It restores your belief in people. You always believe in animals because they don't have the character flaws that people do--they are honest to a fault, but the people...every once in awhile I start questioning them. In situations like this you find the good really comes out."

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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