How To Prepare Your Homestead For A Hurricane Evacuation

This is Part 2 to our Hurricane tales. Part 1 is how to prepare your homestead if you decide to stay during a mandatory evacuation for a hurricane. Part 2 is how to efficiently evacuate. Obviously every homestead has their own set of animals that will require their own set of needs, but I’ll list the basics and things that might slip through the cracks during the chaos.

Here’s the background. If you read this section in our Part 1, skip over the next paragraph.

Background

Little, ol’ Savannah, Georgia was affected by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Irma in 2017. Fingers crossed 2018 does not bring us another unwelcomed guest. Savannah is in a tiny nook on the Georgia coastline, and due to currents and wind patterns, Savannah is rarely in a hurricane’s path and hadn’t been directly hit in almost 100 years. To say, we shrugged off Matthew as it was approaching would be an understatement. We don’t own a horse trailer, and in October 2016, we were in the middle of a house renovation so we definitely didn’t have the money at the time for a horse transporter. We also thought Matthew would most likely turn away from us like the countless storms had before it. It didn’t. Our “plan” to bunker down turned into a very real bunker down and pray situation. The winds were terrifying, and enormous trees snapped like twigs. The sheer force of the storm was something to behold. So, when Irma looked like it was going to come on our side of Florida in 2017, our plan was to get the hell out of dodge. Well, my plan. Husband would have liked to wait a couple more days to see if it was actually going to hit. Been there. Done that! Luckily, Savannah did not get the massive winds like the previous year, but unlike Matthew, Irma brought with it a tidal surge that Savannah had not seen the likes of in quite some time. We live about 3/4 mile from the river, and the water was almost halfway to our house.

To successfully evacuate your homestead, remember…

To Make A Plan

Make a plan before hurricane season. What’s your budget? Where can you go? Who will safely house all of your animals? Where will you and your family be able to stay? Can you transport your animals on your own or do you need assistance?

Some Way To Safely Transport Your Animals

When we evacuated, our dogs fit in our back seats. Our cats were in cat carriers (thank God because one of them was so stressed she pooped in it). Our parakeets were in their cage. Our chickens and ducks were in… dog kennels. We had 17 birds in total at the time. We had to split them into two dog kennels. Luckily they rode on the trailer with the horses on the way there, but on the way home, they had to ride in the bed of a truck. The wind was rough. One of them died about a day after we got home from the stress of it all. We avoided interstates to try to avoid as much wind as we could for them.

We don’t own a horse trailer, so when Irma was headed our way, I called multiple horse transporters. They were booked. Many were running to Florida to get horses before they would even think about coming to Georgia. They also wanted over $1,000 to transport three horses one way three and a half hours away. We couldn’t afford that, and I started to panic. But then, some clever individual started an Hurricane Equine Evacuation Facebook group, and people from all over responded in ways they could help whether it was to provide a place to go or a way to get there. I went down a list and called all these strangers to see if anyone would be willing to help us. By some miracle, a lady called me back and just wanted us to cover her gas expenses. I was so nervous to send my horses on their way with a stranger (we of course followed behind them when we left), but this woman was a Godsend! We paid for her gas, gave her some money for meals and got her a gift basket. She even loaded them by herself and brought them home to us when the hurricane had passed and we had already gone home to make sure it was safe for their return. My mare takes about an hour and a half to load onto a trailer. I don’t own a trailer for her to practice loading with. If you have a horse or animal that’s hard to load onto a trailer too, I highly recommend practicing loading and trailering around the block with your own or a borrowed trailer before hurricane season. That hour and half wasted on getting her onto the trailer was precious time.

Feed

Remember every animal’s feed. I know you already know this, but it’s so easy to get overwhelmed and stressed and forget somebody’s food. The other issue is that you don’t know when you’ll be able to come home. You don’t know if the hurricane is literally going to destroy your home or not.  We took a few bags of each feed, and we also called ahead to feed stores in the city where we were evacuating to to see if they carried our brand of feed. You have to prepare to be gone for longer than you hope just in case. We have horses, so we also brought a few bales of hay. We of course forgot to restock our hay nets after one of our horses had ripped them, so come evacuation day, we had no way of providing them hay for their journey. It was a nightmare. I was so scared they would colic, but thankfully they didn’t. We got hay nets as soon as we got to where we were going for the ride home, whenever that would be. Which brings me to my next point.

Supplies

At your homestead, you have everything you need. You have the perfect set-up. Where you’re evacuating to might not have that. Even if they do, your animals will already be stressed and might want something familiar from home. Bring their feed buckets with you. If you have horses or other livestock, make sure they at least have hay (& hay nets if necessary) for the journey and possibly for their temporary home. Bring water buckets if you are unsure if there will be any where you’re going. Bring familiar toys, beds and leashes, litter boxes, scoops and litter if appropriate for your smaller animals. Medications if necessary. Cleaning supplies (like paper towels & 409) in case there are any accidents on the trip. For the horses, we brought rope halters, lead ropes, grooming supplies, fly spray and fly masks and sheets. When we got to where we were going, we made a point to groom the horses each day. That quality time calmed us and them down.

First Aid Kit, Micro-Chips, Health Records & Contacts

Animals can sense your stress, and new environments can enhance their stress. Bring a first aid kit with you in case anyone gets hurt during transport or in their temporary home. Make sure all of your animals are up-to-date on vaccines and carry their health records with you. Remember your vet’s office will be closed for the hurricane too, so they won’t be able to transfer their records if you need them to. If your animal can have a micro-chip, get one and get it registered. Losing an animal in a foreign city would be disastrous. Dogs, cats and horses are commonly micro-chipped animals, but if you have other livestock, you may want to see if you can micro-chip them as well. Also make sure your animals have i.d. tags if appropriate and  have ample pictures of each animal in case you need to prove they are yours. Locate vets beforehand in the city where you are evacuating to in case you need them when you’re there.

Take Back Roads

Yes, it might take you longer. Yes, it might be out of your way. And yes, you should absolutely, no question take back roads when you evacuate. Don’t subject your animals to unending standstill hours on the interstate. Hurricanes tend to come when it’s hot out. Transporting animals in heat, let alone inching along and barely moving for hours, is not the best option for them.

We made a lot of mistakes when we evacuated for Irma. We learned from those mistakes, and hopefully our next evacuation will go smoother. No matter how you slice it, evacuating your homestead is stressful, but if you have a good plan and a comprehensive checklist, it can be efficient. The ultimate goal is safety for you and your menagerie.

Have you ever had to evacuate your farm or homestead? What would you add to this list?

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