From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1999:
RALEIGH, N.C.– – Disastersville
Center after Hurricane Floyd was expected to
be Jacksonville, Florida. It turned out to be
Greenville, North Carolina, and Manville,
New Jersey, as Floyd blew ashore on
September 16 more than 150 miles farther
north than predicted, skipped lightly over
Washington D.C., and then socked central
New Jersey, right at the fringe of the greater
New York City metropolitan area.
Some newscasters called Floyd less
deadly than anticipated, because it didn’t hit
the big cities. The 48 known human deaths
from Floyd were just a tenth of the estimated
toll from a comparable tropical storm that hit
the Mexican Gulf Coast three weeks later, triggering
floods and mudslides from Veracruz to
as far inland and above sea level as Puebla.
Yet it is possible that no storm hitting
North America ever killed more animals than
Floyd. North Carolina leads the U.S. in turkey
production, is second in pigs, and is third in
chickens––and Floyd swamped the 30-county
“barn belt.” The officially estimated livestock
toll from drowning and starvation included 2.4
million chickens, 600,000 turkeys, and
High water quickly distributed animal
corpses and manure from at least 45 flooded
storage lagoons throughout the countryside.
Overflowing streams, some of them known
habitats for the hallucinogenic micoorganism
pfisteria, may have spread it as well.
The North Carolina state government
hired 11 portable incinerators and crews at
$300 an hour to burn the rotting animal bodies.
What to do about “the cell from hell,” as pfis –
teria is sometimes called, was anyone’s guess.
A possible bright spot amid the
muck, some North Carolina editorialists suggested,
is that Floyd might finally be the disaster
that breaks the agribusiness death-grip on
state economic and environmental policy.
Previous eco-disasters including mega-slurry
spills in 1995 and 1996, and the “pfisteria hysteria”
of 1997, rallied public opinion against
“Boss Hog,” as the Raleigh News & Observer
personifies the factory farming industry, but
the pork and poultry barons continued to have
their own way, for the most part, in the North
By mid-October this year, plumes of
septic runoff from the heavily contaminated
Neuse and Tar Rivers had reportedly depleted
oxygen and salinity levels across 350 square
miles of Pamlico Sound and Core Sound, suffocating
fish and shellfish.
The extent of lasting damage to the
second largest U.S. estuarine ecosystem could
only be guesstimated, but University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill marine scientist Hans
Pearl told Estes Thompson of Associated Press
that it would be considerable.
“We’re seeing an ecological event on
the catastrophic scale,” Pearl explained,
because the Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras
barrier reefs mean the sounds are flushed more
by evaporation than tidal action.
“Pamlico Sound is acting like a giant
bathtub,” Pearl continued. As evaporation distills
away the water molecules that were in the
Sound when the manure runoff hit, the pollution
will remain behind––like a bathtub
ring––beneath new layers of runoff which may
bring further contamination.
Chesapeake Bay, the largest U.S.
estuary, absorbed tons of phosphate-rich
spilled chicken manure.
Even off Cape Fear, where runoff is
flushed by the open Atlantic, the septic density
was more than the tides could easily handle.
“There’s a brown ocean right now,”
University of North Carolina at Wilmington
marine scientist Larry Calhoon told
Thompson, describing a nutrient mass that
covered 300 square miles to a depth of 40 feet,
and could easily ignite algal blooms, or
become a deadly red tide.
Experience after hurricanes Hugo,
Fran, Bonnie, and Bertha suggested that the
oxygen content of the affected water would
remain depleted for at least four to five weeks.
Unabashed, North Carolina Pork
Council chief Walter Cherry on September 29
sent to Members of Congress from North
Carolina a draft bill which would authorize
hog farmers to repair or rebuild facilities to the
environmental standards that existed when
they were first built––which were often none;
allow officials to waive or suspend any regulations
at any level of government that slow
reconstruction; and exempt livestock farmers
for up to one year from portions of the Clean
Water Act that require them to get a permit
before dumping manure into a waterway.
Pointing toward washed-out sewage
treatment plants, cattle feedlots, and poultry
barns, National Pork Council spokesperson
Steven Cohen told Emery P. Dalesio of
Associated Press that critics of the pork industry
are “just obsessive.”
Seemingly big in dollars and pig
lives lost, the pork industry toll was actually
quite small compared to the scale of North
Carolina operations: more than 18 million
pigs, for instance, were sold to slaughter by
North Carolina farmers in 1998 alone.
Agribusiness as a whole expected to
take a loss of more than $1 billion, topping the
$872 million estimated loss from Hurricane
Fran in 1996. North Carolina agricultural
earnings in 1998 topped $3 billion.
For the birds
Washington Post staff writer D’Vera
Cohn reported that, “Birders not so secretly
welcomed the hurricane, hoping it would
bring species north who are rarely seen above
the tropics. Some birders actually rushed to
southern Maryland or Ocean City beaches at
the height of the storm to see what came in.
They were rewarded with a few misplaced
sooty and bridled terns. But the bullseye site
was Cape May, New Jersey, where two dozen
birders stood on a balcony in the howling wind
until police kicked them out, eating pizza and
sighting unprecedented numbers of the terns.”
Wildlife rehabilitators, Cohn continued,
had work to do––mostly involving animals
who lost their homes when trees blew
down. Among the rescue centers receiving
large numbers of young squirrels were the
Chesapeake Wildlife Sanctuary in Bowie,
Maryland; the Second Chance Wildlife
Sanctuary, in Gaithersburg, Maryland; the
Wildlife Rescue League of Northern Virginia
and Washington D.C.; and the Animal
Welfare League of Arlington, Virginia.
“The most notable case,” ARL
finance director Ellen Brown told Cohn, “was
a little squirrel found in a puddle by someone’s
dog. We blew her dry with a hair dryer, and
she seemed to be okay.”
In Florida, Audrey Parente of the
Daytona Beach News-Journal described the
squirrel-saving efforts of Ormond Beach pediatric
nurse Judy Brown and Port Orange
wildlife rehabber Jackie Anthony. Between
them, they handled more than 100 squirrels.
Bird rescuer Mary Keller of Holly Hilly told
Parente that Floyd brought her 11 young doves
and a seagull with a broken wing.
Late-hatching sea turtle nests were
washed out from Cumberland Island, Georgia,
where 109 were lost, to just north of Cape
Fear, where more than 120 vanished at Bald
Head and Oak Island. The toll followed a
record 1,420 sea turtle nestings along the
Georgia coast, and record counts as well in
both North and South Carolina.
While some people saved wildlife in
distress, others complained of wild animals
scavenging drowned livestock. Deer, bears,
and squirrels presented a road hazard while
taking advantage of windfallen acorns and
nuts. Displaced snakes, some venomous,
often sought high ground by crawling into
buildings and vehicles. At large with the
wildlife were lost pets and escaped livestock.
International Fund for Animal
Welfare publicist Jennifer Ferguson-Mitchell
said one farmer called the IFAW/Humane
Society of the U.S. rescue headquarters at the
federal Emergency Operations Center in
Raleigh, “to check on the status of 10,000 pigs
he had released as the flood waters rose.”
The addition of that many pigs to a
feral population already officially considered
undesirable could in itself be considered a
major animal welfare and ecological problem.
Other farmers are believed to have
released their livestock, evidently more disturbed
by the prospect of animals drowning
than by sending them to slaugfhter.
Said Murphy Family Farms contract
pig breeder Jamie Dail, to Dalesio of
Associated Press, having second thoughts
about having not released his animals, “It
don’t bother me that the pigs died. It’s how
they died that bothers me. I don’t like to see
Interviewed by Washington Post
staff writer Craig Whitlock, Elizabeth Butler
of Shelltown, Maryland, asked rhetorically
after she and her husband Denny lost their
broiler flock, “Have you ever heard 25,000
chickens scream? Chickens are not used to
getting their feet wet. They were terrified.”
IFAW immediately sent to the scene
a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter piloted by Telford
Allen, staff disaster coordinator Jennifer
Homcy and second-in-command Shirley
Minshew, public affairs manager A.J. Cady,
and University of California at Davis veterinarians
John Madigan and Jackie Whitamore.
United Animal Nations sent eight
boats and 40 volunteers to Greenville, setting
up a temporary shelter at East Carolina University,
under Pitt County Humane Society
staff member Cora Tyson. Within hours they
had 30 animals in hand and 70 requests from
displaced persons to rescue pets. Among the
first Tyson herself retrieved––after helping to
evacuate 90 from the Pitt County Humane
Society––were 12 caged pit bull terriers,
found at a site where three others drowned.
The American Humane Association,
HSUS, and the private rescue organization
Code 3 sent their disaster relief teams, too.
But the early rescue efforts focused on companion
animals, brought out of the flooding by
displaced people, picked up by animal control
personnel, or gathered en mass from animal
care facilities of various kinds, including the
Neuse Way Nature Center in Kinston, where a
caiman may have escaped.
But not all were able to evacuate
soon enough, especially in Rocky Mount,
where the water may have risen most rapidly.
There, a Chihuahua and three cats drowned at
the Riverside Veterinary Hospital; 12 animals
drowned at the Rocky Mount Children’s museum,
where a 40-year-old alligator, a 35-yearold
python, and a boa constrictor survived;
and only one snake, two cages of finches, a
guinea pig, and a puppy survived at the
Animal World pet shop, whose owner, Judy
Leonard, spent two days trying to find someone
with a boat to take her there.
Eleven animals drowned at the city
animal shelter in Rocky Mount. Surviving
dogs stood on their hind legs to keep their
heads above water by the time rescuers were
able to boat in and get them, animal control
officer Don Cashwell told David Blount of
Cox News Services. Eleven to 15 dogs and
eight or nine cats survived and were taken to
the home of animal control officer Jean Wood,
according to various accounts, where they
were fed with the help of three bags of food
dropped off by National Guard members.
Animals also reportedly drowned at
the animal control shelter in Denton,
Maryland, but Caroline County Humane
Society volunteers did save most, an e-mail
account by CCHS member Terri Wilkes indicated.
The Denton flooding receded by
September 19, while the water at some North
Carolina locations was still on the rise.
Twenty-five to 30 animals were
removed just in time from the Johnson Park
Zoo in Middlesex County, New Jersey, where
the Raritan River overflowed, but eight or
nine horses drowned––accounts differed–– in a
county stable, which was leased to a private
operator. Middlesex County parks and recreation
director Ralph Albanir told Sarah
Greenblatt of the East Brunswick Home News
T r i b u n e that his staff saw that several horse
trailers were moved, and thought the horses
had been moved too.
Bring ‘em back alive
Staff from the Somerset Regional
Animal Shelter in Bridgewater, New Jersey,
and the St. Hubert’s Giralda Animal Hospital
in North Branch picked up animals from the
Manville flood zone soon after the water rose.
Go-out-and-find-’em animal rescue
in the hardest-hit parts of North Carolina
reportedly didn’t start in any systematic way,
however, until several days after Floyd blew
through––mainly because the would-be rescuers
had no way to get to them.
“Since pets could not be taken into
rescue boats, they were left on roofs,” wrote
Rocky Mount resident Allan Gurganus, in an
op-ed essay for The New York Times. “Soon
as the winds stopped, one man circulated
around our schoolhouse shelters; he jotted
down the first names and addresses of such
stranded animals. Aided by his motorboat, a
fishing net, and a whole heap of kibble, he set
about retrieving pets. Imagine a fiberglas craft
Evinruded along, loaded with collies, mutts,
caged canaries, and three indolent Persian cats
decidedly unpleased to be wet this publicly,
sneezing in broad daylight, generously not
looking at each other. Animals forgot their
usual warring. All in one boat, they aimed a
single direction. Each would soon significantly
lift the morale of owners who would otherwise
have lost everything.”
Surviving livestock also got a longdelayed
break. Reported Lane DeGregory of
the Norfolk V i r g i n i a n – P i l o t, “Two horses up
to their necks in black-brown floodwaters for
the last week were set in slings, then flown
beneath helicopters to higher ground near
Greenville. Hundreds of cows were herded
onto huge rafts outside Tarboro, and then
floated, four or five at a time, to dry spots.
Farmers tied ropes around pigs in Jones
County and pulled them, swimming behind
johnboats, to safety. And dozens of boaters
plucked dogs out of the polluted water.”
“The majority of the cats were like a
ball of fur and razors,” AHA volunteer
Jennifer Roberts told Washington Post s t a f f
writer Maria Glod. Roberts, 32, an animal
control officer from Fairfax, Virginia, was
among 20 trained personnel operating out of
the AHA/Animal Planet mobile disaster relief
unit. They recovered about 300 animals in and
around Kinston, but were frustrated when
some dogs they approached dived into the
rushing water instead of allowing themselves
to be taken into a boat, and were further disappointed
when 26 pigs they took to seemingly
dry land were washed away later when the
flood kept rising.
The television news magazine show
2 0 / 2 0 reportedly broadcast a frustrating
moment for UAN director of emergency services
Terri Crisp, who approached an inundated
puppy mill near Greenville with an estimated
75-80 dogs trapped inside, only to be told
by the owner that her help wasn’t wanted. But
UAN did recover 12 Pomeranians, poodles,
and spaniels in the vicinity, who may have
escaped from the puppy mill. Altogether,
UAN staff and volunteers rescued about 300
animals and temporarily sheltered 700.
Among the many difficulties the
mostly vegan UAN team encountered was a
shortage of vegan food which had not been
contaminated by the floodwater.
Clean up and fix-up
The North Carolina State College of
Veterinary Medicine set up a temporary animal
hospital behind the North Carolina
Museum of Art in Raleigh, directed by Kelli
Farris, DVM. Ten days after Floyd, it had
treated 550 of the first 1,000 dogs and cats
reported rescued, of whom 80 unidentified
strays remained in custody; five days later, the
unidentified stray count was up to 150.
“We’ve been told to expect at least
50 dogs a day for the next five days,”
spokesperson Leigh Ann Wilder told Matthew
Teague of the Raleigh News & Observer. But
sometimes they came in faster than that, especially
after a dam broke in Tarboro on the
morning of September 28, reportedly forcing
the evacuation of about 65 rescued pets from
the Edgecomb County Animal Shelter, and
encouraging the Edgecomb County Humane
Society to relocate many of the 160 dogs and
cats it had received. Thirty to forty manureand-petroleum-soaked
dogs arrived from
Tarboro in each of several truckloads, classed
by other emergency personnel as a hazardous
cargo––partly due to the pollution, partly due
to a rabies outbreak in the vicinity of Tarboro.
The emergency hauling was reportedly done
by a crew and vehicle sent by the Lexington
(Kentucky) Humane Society.
Dana Jones, DVM, of Raleigh,
boarded 11 dogs to help with the overflow.
“Many of them have eye infections,
worms, and diarrhea,” Jones told Teague and
fellow Raleigh News & Observer staff writer
Elizabeth Wellington. “Unfortunately, some
of them were really sick before the floods, and
this just sent them over the edge.”
In addition, Jones noticed, “A lot of
these dogs are uncomfortable outside in the
rain. There may be some psychological damage
there. They’re adjusting,” he said, evaluating
all he had handled as adoptable. “It’s
just going to take some time.”
As of October 1, the vet school shelter
had avoided euthanizing any animals.
Strays were to be held for up to two months
and then offered for adoption. The Animals’
Hope Natural Disaster Site assembled a list of
potential adopters and fostering volunteers at >>www.enviroweb.org/ahpt/NDAnimalsHope.html<<, German Shepherd Rescue & Adoptions sought to arrange transportation for animals going to out-of-state foster homes, c/o >>www.gsdrescue.org<<; and HSUS posted photos of unidentified strays at >>www.hsus.org/disaster/index.html<<. PETsMART Charities sent $12,000 worth of carrying crates, food, bowls, and collars to AHA and HSUS rescue centers in North Carolina, and sent similar help to the flood zone in New Jersey. Nebraska Alfalfa Marketing Association head Dan Hinnah reportedly donated a truckload of alfalfa to be distributed to starving farm animals by the Burnett Animal Hospital in Burgaw, North Carolina. The Burnett Animal Hospital was also to distribute 15 skids of dog food provided by Harlequin Haven Great Dane Rescue of Ohio.
By early October the worst of the crisis seemed to be over. The AHA/A n i m a l P l a n e t mobile unit departed for Minneapolis, where it was on exhibit throughout the annual AHA conference, October 3-6.
Good preparation informed by experience with previous hurricanes and many UAN and AHA-led training sessions helped keep Floyd from harming more animals.
The Florida Department of Agriculture coordinated a particularly successful series of preparations––which turned out to be mostly unnecessary, but amounted to a full-scale disaster rehearsal.
Along the Florida Keys, where Floyd was initially expected to hit, swimwith-dolphin facilities shut down and allowed resident dolphins to seek safety in the ocean. As Floyd stayed at sea longer, the Palm Beach Zoo, with 400 animals, and Lion Country Safari, with 1,200, arranged indoor space for almost all. Lion Country even housed several raptors and a binturong, a rare Asian predator, in its gift shop. The only animals left outdoors were 40 chimpanzees, who seemed to be in no mood to go anywhere, and had concrete culvert pipes for shelter if they wanted any.
The Orlando Humane Society prepared to take 40 animals from the Brevard County shelter. Horses were hauled to evacuation sites in Alachua and Marion counties, and as they filled, to the fairgrounds in Hernando and Tampa counties, with fairgrounds in Georgia and Alabama asked to be on standby.
When it was clear that Floyd would strike farther north, the North Charleston SPCA in South Carolina converted the city ice arena into a temporary shelter for 500 displaced animals and their owners, covering the ice with fiberboard insulation. The Hippodrome Horse Complex in North Augusta, Georgia, accommodated more than 300 displaced horses from South Carolina, along with more than 30 dogs.
The Virginia Living Museum in Newport News evacuated, reportedly having difficulty convincing a family of beavers to abandon the opportunity to play in high water.
As far north as North Kingstown, Rhode Island, the Tarzan Zerbini Circus deemed discretion the better part of valor, cancelled a scheduled show, and took shelter in a former U.S. Navy warehouse. The Providence Animal Rescue League prepared an emergency shelter at the ice arena in the Mickey Stevens Sports Complex.
But in Georgia allegations flew that humane society managers panicked.
In Kingsland, just north of the Florida line, Humane Society of Camden County president Julia Cooper opted to kill all 120 animals at the shelter when officials of the county, the cities of Kingsland and St. Marys, and nearby animal shelters did not respond to her requests for help in complying with a county-wide evacuation order.
The nearby shelters, however, were much slower with the needle. Glynn County Animal Control placed many animals in outside-the-region foster care before killing 14. In Yulee, Florida, just 10 miles south, the First Coast Humane Society killed 25 of 65 animals on hand. Executive director Terry Marques told Gordon Jackson of the F l o r i d a Times-Union in Jacksonville that all of the animals First Coast killed were sick, injured, or had been there at least a week and had poor adoption prospects.
St. Augustine Humane Society shelter director Martina Walker said her staff killed “a few more animals than usual,” but volunteers stayed there with another 125 animals throughout the storm to make sure they were safe. The Jacksonville Humane Society and Clay County Animal Control reportedly killed no extra animals.
Cooper broke ground for a $195,000 new shelter on September 21, but acknowledged that irate donors had cancelled pledges of as much as $70,000 toward the cost.
“This is going to drop our funding down to nothing,” she lamented. “But I stand by our decision. We followed protocol.” As it happened, the region suffered no serious damage.
Located between Yulee and the Georgia border, the White Oak Conservation Center “relocated birds from aviaries and two tigers as a safety precaution,” conservation director Dave Thompson told ANIMAL PEOPLE. After Floyd turned, Thompson added, “We did not get more than a 40-mile-an-hour breeze out of it, with no rain of any consequence.” Founded and funded by the late papermaking billionaire Howard Gilman, White Oak is a nonprofit facility chiefly engaged in breeding highly endangered species for accredited zoos and reintroduction efforts.
In Savannah, Georgia, Chatham County Animal Control and police officers found 90 cats, 30 dogs, four rabbits, two ferrets, and a gerbil who had been left unattended at the Chatham-Savannah Humane Society shelter for as long as three days. The humane society had not completed a disaster evacuation plan drafted by former executive director Michael Weaver, who left two months before Floyd. He was not promptly replaced.
Georgia agriculture commissioner Tommy Irvin charged CSHS with animal abandonment. The society on September 28 settled the charge by accepting a two-year probation, during which time the disaster plan must be developed and personnel trained to carry it out. Rob Lee, formerly executive director of the John Ankrum SPCA in Charleston, South Carolina, has been hired as new CSHS executive director.
According to Dave Williams and James Salzer of the Savannah Morning News, “State veterinarian Lee Myers blamed the abandonment on the failure of ‘senior employees’ at the shelter to follow directions” from board president Helen Stone to kill all the animals before leaving Savannah. Michelle Kane, whose official title at the shelter was business manager, verbally gave her 30-day notice last week. She said she didn’t follow Stone’s orders because she already had euthanized about 40 dogs and cats earlier that day and didn’t have the heart to kill more.” Flooding never reached the site.
Contributions to the North Carolina Veterinary Medicine Foundation’s Animal Disaster Relief Fund may be sent c/o N.C. State College of Veterinary Medicine, POB 8401, Raleigh, NC 27695. The Charlotte Humane Society Hurricane Relief Fund welcomes help c/o 2700 Toomey Ave., Charlotte, NC 28203. The Caroline County Humane Society Disaster Fund accepts donations at POB 4, Denton, MD 21629.