Summer flooding tested disaster prep in Georgia

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 1994:

MACON, Georgia––Tropical Storm Alberto killed 31 people during the second
week of July, washing out 9,000 homes, 1,700 roads, 600 bridges, and 100 dams across
southern Georgia. Animals suffered too, as 300,000 chickens drowned on just one farm near
Montezuma, while 83 dogs and cats died in the submerged Sumter County Humane Society
shelter, a short distance north at Americus. Of the dogs left inside, only the shelter mascot
survived, hiding in a storage closet that withstood the water. One cat also survived, who was
quickly adopted out and named “Miracle.” Six dogs kept outside escaped as the torrent
wrecked their cages.
The Georgia Wildlife Resources division expected a heavy impact upon rabbits,
rodents, foxes, and fawns, who were born late this year due to a lingering winter. Driving

rains demolished birds’ nests, killing fledg-
lings. Late-nesting neotropical songbirds,
whose numbers were already down, were
hardest hit. Thick silt suffocated fish and
frogs, while reptiles’ eggs were buried or
washed away. Many fish who survived the
silting were stranded in small pools as the
water receded, becoming easy prey for rac-
coons and wading birds. Oppossums climbed
down after spending days in treetops to com-
pete with rats for the remains of the dead.
Disaster relief experts Terri Crisp of
United Animal Nations and Nick Gilman of
the American Humane Association arrived in
Macon and Albany, respectively, late on July
7. “The animal control facility in Macon had
gone completely underwater,” UAN program
director Vernon Weir reported. “Eighty dogs
and cats had been evacuated” to the nearby
veterinary clinic of Dr. Daniel Miller. The
facility was quickly overwhelmed.”
Luckily UAN had held a disaster
preparation seminar in Macon last May. “We
were in good shape,” said Humane Services
of Middle Georgia founder Edwina Barnes,
“other than not having good water for 17
days.” Humane Services volunteers joined
Crisp in a cleaning bee on July 8. With the
Macon situation under control, Crisp and
some of the volunteers took emergency sup-
plies on to Bainbridge the next morning,
where the worst flooding was expected.
“As in Macon, the animal shelter was
flooded,” Weir said. “Even if it hadn’t been, it
is doubtful the facility could have handled all the
animals” left behind by fleeing residents. Crisp
borrowed tents from two funeral parlors and
recruited stranded truckers to help put them up
as a temporary shelter, just across the street
from the Decatur County fire department.
Veterinarian Edgar Hecht worked at cost to pro-
vide medical care at the facility.
“Humane Society of the U.S. southeast
regional director Laura Bevan reached
Bainbridge at about the same time,” Weir
added. “It was agreed that Laura would help
animals downtown,” where she set up a similar
temporary shelter, “and UAN would cover the
rural area outside of town.”
More supplies came from UAN volun-
teers in Missouri and Illinois, whose experience
with last year’s midwestern flooding taught them
just what to send. The UAN telephone tree
brought extra hands, including two flood rescue
veterans from St. Louis and one from Texas.
The crew grew to 40, 12 of them graduates of
the UAN disaster preparedness courses. They
took in 52 dogs, 56 cats, and 21 barnyard fowl
before shutting down on July 21.
“Most were picked up by their human
companions,” Weir said. Most of the rest were
adopted, some by the volunteers. Crisp took
home a kitten, as did UAN staffers Deanna
Soares and Debbie Winslow. Shirley Minshew
of the Animal Rescue Kennel in Macon took the
remainder to put up for adoption there.
Bevan enjoyed similar success,
attracting humane society staff volunteers from
Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Pinellas County
in Florida, as well as from elsewhere in Georgia.
All but three of the animals they handled were
either returned to their owners or adopted out.
The HSUS site closed on July 24.
Gilman spent July 8 and 9 rescuing
stranded pets by canoe. “Each yard seemed to
have a desperate dog clinging to a tree or shed,”
he recalled. One dog repeatedly bit him. A few
hours later he fell into the fast-moving floodwa-
ters. A fellow volunteer threw him a floatation
ring. The lowest points, though, he said, were
losing a feral cat who dived down a chimney into
a flooded house to evade capture, and finding a
drowned litter of newborn pit bull terriers. Left
behind in a locked house after their owner fled,
their mother––who survived––had carried them
to the highest shelves, to no avail.
“We rescued about 500 animals by
boat,” Gilman estimated. “We found mostly
wet dogs clinging to fences, sitting on top of
their dog houses, or swimming. Some were so
weak they could hardly move. Some were left
chained and drowned. And we rescued about 20
rabbits from one hutch.”
The Albany Area Humane Society
handled 800 animals in 10 days. Gilman left on
July 12th to supervise animal relief work in
Colorado wildfire areas, which turned out to be
unnecessary, but returned on the 15th. Other
help came from Fulton County Animal Control,
of Atlanta, and the Halifax Humane Society in
Daytona Beach, Florida.
North Shore Animal League staffers
Harvey Silverman and Tammy Kirkpatrick
arrived as the water receded, arranging for the
Macon and Albany shelters to receive food, lit-
ter, and cleaning supplies, while sending
$5,000 to the animal rescue kennel in Warner
Robins to cover extra vaccinations and feline
leukemia tests––required, Marilyn DiToro of
NSAL said, because “the number of stray cats
brought to the shelter increased dramatically.”
More food came from Iams and
Purina. Iams alone distributed nearly 10 tons of
kibble in the three most affected counties.
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