The morning after Irma
The Days After Hurricane Irma
Monday September 11, 2017. It may be 9-11 but we didn’t have to call 911. Big Cat Rescuers went out at 4PM, 7PM, 8PM, 9PM-11PM, 3AM and 7AM and we are still out there.
The worst of the damage was done to the metal awning over the tour waiting area when a tree became completely uprooted and fell onto the cabana and the corner of the gift shop. We heard it hit at 3AM and Big Cat Rescuers, Jamie, Dr Justin, Kathryn and Victor ran out to secure the area and make sure the bobcats who live in that area were safe.
We didn’t see the next bit of major damage until after checking to be sure all lions, tigers, leopards and cougars were secure. We then walked all of the small cat areas to be sure no trees had snapped off, leaving holes in the caging. A HUGE branch came down on Pharaoh the white serval’s cage, but the way our cages are built, it just crushed the rounded cage, like a coke can, but did not leave a hole in the cage for escape. Pharaoh has about four cages hooked together, and could have fled into any of his other rooms, but instead he was just laying there, looking out from one of his dens, at the damage as if to decide whether or not he liked the look.
We had been so worried about Little Dove, our most elderly cat at the age of 24, but by 7AM she had left the tree stump den she used over night, to get back on her Coolaroo.
Huge tree is uprooted and lands on gift shop / tour waiting area.
We lost the fence and about 1/3 of the tour waiting area roof.
Tour waiting area is a wreck from tree and flooding.
All the ailing cats, Babycakes the genet, the rats and Cooper Bobcat did fine w/ Gale over night. Cooper was taken back out and released into his rehab enclosure, but he will be kept in the small side until we figure out what’s going on w/ Hurricane Jose. All the domestic cats and foster kittens did fine in the Gift Shop overnight; as did the volunteer’s dogs. Most are going home, if they have power.
We have power at the north end of the property for Food Prep, the Gift Shop, the Kitten Cabana and volunteer housing at the north end. We have no power at the south end which includes all intern housing, both sets of offices, Gale’s house, Kathryn’s house, Karma’s house, Lauren’s house and my house.
There was a tree down across Easy Street this morning so no one could get in or out. That took a while to cut up w/ a chain saw and haul off. Now we are turning our attention to the pumps to move some water. We have cancelled tours for today and maybe tomorrow too.
See our photos and videos from Hurricane Irma here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/
This was leading up to Hurricane Irma’s wrath:
What do you do with 70+ big cats when you hear a Cat 5 hurricane is heading your way?
Click map to see locations of known tigers in FL and GA
You start to implement the critical disaster plans that you have prepared many years in advance. Visit that link to get the full details of the work we’ve done to protect the cats through the storm.
Some of that implementation means briefing the staff, which we did last Wednesday. We assigned duties for gathering the supplies we have boarded up the gift shop and food prep windows. They are the only two concrete block structures on the property, so we have custom steel shutters to cover the windows so we can use it as a command center. The other concrete building is food prep and we also covered the windows there.
We’ve already updated our Amazon Wishlist for things we need after the storm. Be sure to sign up for Smile.Amazon.com first so that you get the added benefit of your shopping dollars benefitting Big Cat Rescue. We are busy checking and double checking all of the supplies we have on hand.
We have spent the several weeks taking down all of the trees that were killed in the drought, and chipping the wood so there aren’t logs flying around. Even today we are still trimming up trees to remove broken or rotten branches. We’ve been bringing everything in under cover so it won’t become a flying missile.
Volunteers are busy mowing because hurricanes dump a LOT of rain and it will dry out faster if the grass is short. They always stay on top of removing debris and deadfall and keep the grounds spotless, so much of that work is already done.
It was accidental timing, but we are happy that our new fuel tanks are here, so now we have fuel for the generators if we lose power.
Volunteers moved stuff from the existing Gift Shop to the new gift shop so that about 20-30 of us can hunker down in there if needed. See LIVE webcam We’ve brought in blankets and pillows and have racks set up for the crates for everyone’s pets.
We boarded up Food Prep and set up palates in there to bring in Babycakes Genet and are moving our ailing bobcats, Will and Divinity in there because our hospitals could blow away. See LIVE webcam The pizza companies around us are loving that we are feeding all the volunteers and interns for the past few days, and will for as long as they will deliver.
The big cats are feeling the cooler, wetter air and getting friskier. That or they sense our anxiety and are trying to let us know that we are all tough and will survive this. Two cats have come here from other facilities. One was driven in and we picked up the other this morning. We are not releasing details on the animals because they are not owned by us and we don’t want to deter owners from surrendering animals to protect them during this hurricane. Just suffice it to say they are here, safe and will have keepers tending to them until it’s safe for them to go back.
Coolaroos have been moved out of the cats’ areas into their safety entrances. Trenches to move water away from cages have been dug and we will have two crews patrolling in trucks to keep an eye on the water as it rises and divert it where possible.
One thing that IS new, since our last bout with hurricanes, is that about 80+ acres to the north of us (up hill) has been transformed from woodlands to homes, offices and parking lots. According to the flood maps, there would have to be a 39 foot high surge for the gulf to make it to our doors, but all of the run off, from all of the development that is around us could cause us a lot of flooding. Many people are worried about our cats drowning and there isn’t much chance of that, since they all have platforms and hillside dens they can get on top of, if the waters were to rise suddenly.
Some people are asking why we didn’t evacuate. If you have seen the news, it’s been bumper to bumper traffic at a crawl on all roads leaving Florida. We have been involved in a number of rescues where facilities the size of ours had to be emptied out and it takes months, of all of the good sanctuaries providing transports and final destinations for the cats. You can only move 1-6 cats at a time because of the size of the cats and the wagons needed to transport them. Locations to move them to are days away, so several days out and back for a handful of cats; meanwhile key staff is gone and unable to do everything necessary to protect the other 65 cats left behind. Here in Florida we ARE the place others send their cats when they fear a storm will destroy their cages.
We’ve been in touch with other sanctuaries as we all will share resources and man power to protect the animals in our collective care. I fear that some of the crappy cages that are holding dozens and dozens of tigers, between Hurricane Irma and Big Cat Rescue, will start to fail, but it will be too late to move the cats here because the roads are just a parking lot from Miami to Georgia.
So, what can you do to help? Donations will be needed and appreciated, but for now how about everyone visualizing this storm just blowing herself out before any more lives are lost.
Any ideas that aren’t on our http://bigcatrescue.org/critical-incident-hurricane-and-disaster-plan/ page? Put them in the comments below. Oh, and say a prayer for us too.
Update Sept 10, 2017
9:42 The cats have been fed. Observations have been logged. This am we turned these private LIVE webcams to public so you guys can see us working.