This post is rather tardy, in the sense that Hurricane Season officially starts June 1st, but I guess better late than never. And since we’re currently keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Emily and praying for the people of Haiti, over which Emily is set to make landfall this evening, we thought now would be a good time for this post.
As a native Floridian, I’ve both ridden out and evacuated from my fair share of hurricanes, and at this point I’ve practically got it down to a science. Yet, I think it’s still worth thinking about, talking about, and yes even blogging about, if for no other reason than because 2011 is reported to have above-average hurricane activity with at least one named storm predicted to make landfall at some point during the season, which doesn’t officially end until November 30th. So even if Emily doesn’t come to visit us, November 30th is still a long way away, and the possibility is very real that we’ll have to deal with the issue of evacuation at some point in the next couple of months.
But here’s the truth … as soon as June 1st rolls around, the native Floridian in me automatically goes into some form of hurricane mode. I get out the large Rubbermaid tote that serves as the our evacuation kit, and start assembling my evacuation supplies. Here’s what goes in:
* At least a 2-week supply of food for all five animals (this is a little tricky because on a daily basis both dogs and all three cats are on a “home made” prey model raw diet).
However, because hurricane evacuation is stressful enough without factoring in several coolers’ full of raw meat, we have to have a contingency plan. I will fill a decent size cooler with some raw stuff, mainly so that if we lose power at the house, I won’t lose ALL of my meat stash, but it’s usually not more than two or three days’ worth, so I have to have other food that is not as perishable as backup (and that they are already used to and like.) Right now, I’ve got two cases of Go! Grain Free Turkey & Duck in the 5.5 ounce cans for the cats as well as a case of their very favorite Addiction Summer Brushtail canned food. For the dogs, I’ve got a 16 ounce bag of the Stella and Chewy's Duck Duck Goose which is a freeze dried raw product that you hydrate with water before serving and a 2 pound bag of Ziwi Peak Venison & Fish jerky . I’ve also got a couple of cans of Tripett Green Lamb Tripe, some sample size bags of Honest Kitchen and a few jars of meat and meat/veggie baby food just so I don’t run out of things to give Tucker his thyroid support meds in.
* A couple bags of treats for both dogs and cats.
* Large package of paper plates (the convenience factor of being able to toss them out rather than wash bowls when potable water may be at a premium is worth it).
* Bag of plastic spoons (I will rinse these off and re-use them if I can but if not, I know I can safely discard them).
* Kitty Nutrical (just in case the cats stop eating from stress).
* Gallon Zip-lock bag with an extra bottle of Tucker’s thyroid meds, an extra bottle of the dogs' fish oil caps, an extra bottle of Gentle Digest probiotics, and an extra bottle of Finn's Feline Transfer Factor.
* Gallon Zip-lock bag full of clean washcloths
* Roll of paper towels
* First aid kit (I bought one already stocked – it’s got the standard first aid kit things like tweezers, alcohol wipes, various bandages, antiobiotic ointment, a small pair of scissors, some latex gloves, gauze pads, tape, etc. – to which I added a box of Benadryl).
* A few disposable litter pans (I get a couple of the smaller regular plastic ones and stick those in the trunk of my car), a litter scooper, and some empty plastic grocery bags.
* Poop bags
* Feliway plug-in diffuser to combat travel stress in the cats and Phoebe's Thundershirt
* A bottle of Nature's Miracle for accidents of the pee/poop or vomit variety.
* The plastic Pendaflex folder containing everyone's medical records – each animal has a tab with all of their innoculation records, vet hospital invoices, test results, etc. inside.
During the “season” I also stock up on litter (even if I don’t need it, I grab one each time I go to the grocery store and keep a couple in the trunk of my car at all times), bottled water in both gallons and individual bottle sizes, and paper towels. Obviously I can’t fit all the water, paper towels, etc. that I might need in the emergency kit, so at the start of the season I give the trunk of my car a good cleaning, removing any random items that may have found their way there during the rest of the year, and leaving it de-cluttered and essentially empty in case I need to throw in some last minute rations of water, a bag of clean, old towels and other similar necessities before hitting the road.
Another thing I do around the first of June every year is to check that everyone’s ID tags are still legible (and replace them if not), and get my car serviced, making sure to request that the air pressure in my spare tire is checked as well.
With these basic preparations, which I undertake almost without even thinking about it at the beginning of the season each year, I’m basically ready to roll at pretty much a moment’s notice, even though we generally have several days to try to figure out what to do (IE board up and hunker down, or board up and take off!).
If we’re planning to stay, (which generally we’ll do if it’s a Category 3 or lower) I’ll go out and lay in additional supplies of nonperishable food for the animals, and of course for myself, stock up on water, maybe go by the fire station and fill up some sandbags just in case, and do all the usual preparations that one undertakes to get their home ready for a hurricane.
If we’re going to evacuate (which we absolutely will do if it’s a category 4 or 5 coming at us, and sometimes even if it is a category 3) then of course we have to figure out where to go. Fortunately I have family and friends on the east coast of Florida (I'm on the west coast), one of whom lives on extremely high ground in a house built like a bunker, so that if the storm looks like it’s coming here, I can go there, and vice-versa. But if we’re going north, then a good resource for figuring out where I will be welcomed with this motley crew is http://hotels.petswelcome.com/chains/ and I call and make reservations at a couple of different places depending upon how far I’m going, just so that I make sure I have SOMEWHERE to go, because one thing that is true of evacuations is that they never go quite how you think they will. If the travel time from point A to point B is normally X hours, you can basically plan on at least doubling that in an evacuation situation, because if YOU’RE leaving, then a whole lot of other people are, too. Things get crazy, so it’s best to have a backup plan for your backup plan, especially when traveling with animals.
When all is said and done, however, evacuating with pets is really not that difficult. By planning ahead and assembling most of your evacuation supplies before any named storms are even on the horizon, I find I’m able to, once I’ve done my preliminary preparations at the start of the season, basically relax. Aside from a really active 2004 season, during which Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne came calling in quick succession, most of the time hurricane season is nothing to get too worked up over. All we can really do is be prepared … and once we are, it’s in other hands than ours, and all we can do is hope for the best! So here’s hoping!
* ETA - First, I forgot one of the key elements that alway goes in my evacuation kit: Bach's Rescue Remedy. Secondly, I think I might have been a little too cavalier in my summation paragraph, as I did not mention 2005's Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans as well as other parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, and killed over 1,800 people. Had the path that storm taken been just a little different, that could well have been Florida, and our hearts did and do go out to not only those whose lives were lost as a result of Katrina, but also to all those whose lives will never be the same in the wake of what is, to date, the costliest, as well as one of the deadliest, natural disasters in US history.