Hurricane Katrina history helped the Superstorm Sandy animal relief effort

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  November/December 2012:

 NEW YORK CITY–Superstorm Sandy hit the U.S. animal rescue community somewhat like a small child falling down stairs.  First came the shocking impact,  then a surprisingly long silence,  and only after that came the cries for help. Afflicting parts of 24 states,  doing more than $32 billion in estimated damage,  Sandy left animal charities in the stricken regions without electricity,  telephone,  and Internet service for days or weeks,  even more than a month in some cases. Individual animal rescuers in coastal areas lost vehicles, some lost their homes,  and at least two lost their lives.

Comparisons to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 were inevitable, but differences were more evident than similarities.  Hitting toward the end of the summer “dog days,”  Katrina dominated the news for months.  Superstorm Sandy was overshadowed in much of the U.S. by coverage of the heated national election.

Hurricane Katrina,  a Category 5 hurricane when it approached New Orleans,  downgraded to Category 4 before it hit,  was meteorologically far larger than Sandy,  but New Orleans,  the biggest city socked by Katrina,  had only 10% of the human population of New York City,  hardest hit by Sandy.  Peaking as a Category 2 hurricane off Jamaica,  Sandy was considered only a “post-tropical cyclone” by the time it sent a storm surge swirling through New York City,  but Sandy also devastated parts of several other cities about the size of New Orleans.

Katrina displaced most of the people in New Orleans–about half of them permanently.  Many left pets behind.  The rescue emphasis after Katrina was on trying to find and recover animals from flooded neighborhoods,  amid intense late summer heat.  Many animals who survived Katrina died later from dehydration and hunger.

Relatively few people in the path of Sandy were displaced for long.  Most who fled or were evacuated took their pets with them. Unlike after Katrina,  Federal Emerg-ency Management Authority-funded temporary housing included pet-friendly quarters,  as directed by the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006,  passed by Congress in response to Katrina.  The emphasis after Sandy was,  and is,  on helping displaced people to look after their pets during months of clean-up and rebuilding.

Katrina disaster relief operations centered on New Orleans and Gulfport,  Mississippi.  Encampments of rescuers at the few points of access to New Orleans grew into small temporary cities. Every established humane organization serving either New Orleans or Gulfport had to rebuild,  but as the area was relatively underserved, humane services improved post-Katrina.

Sandy tore up a ribbon of coastline from Delaware to Rhode Island,  and brought a heavy freak snowstorm to West Virginia. Dozens of animal shelters,  animal hospitals,  sanctuaries,  and other humane service providers suffered damage,  but relatively unscathed animal charities were usually able to assist the victims from just a few miles away.  Most post-Sandy animal rescuers slept in their own beds after long days of helping in the disaster areas, albeit often with displaced colleagues in spare rooms and on couches.

“It is very unreal here because if one is not in or near the affected areas one would not know how bad it is in the affected areas,”  Mayor’s Alliance for New York City Animals director Jane Hoffman told ANIMAL PEOPLE.  “I had no power or water until the Sunday following Sandy because I live in lower Manhattan,”  Hoffman continued.  “When I went to the Upper West Side to a friend’s to shower it was bizarre.  Below 34th Street there were no street lights or stop lights,   nor any light from buildings.”

Supplies and other help were typically not far away,  yet were inaccessible,  especially in New York City and immediate suburbs.  Because there was no electricity,  there were no working gasoline pumps.  But there were also few operable vehicles. Underground parking garages and ground level parking lots were underwater,  stranding and ruining hundreds of taxi cabs and buses as well as personal vehicles.  The flooded New York City subway system was out of service for a week.

World Animal Net lists more than 1,000 animal charities in the coastal region from the Mid-Atlantic states to southern New England that took the hardest hit from Superstorm Sandy.  ANIMAL PEOPLE in the following pages summarizes the damage suffered and disaster relief contributions made by 80 of them,  with apologies in advance to the many whose involvement we were unable to identify before deadline.

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