Those of us in Northern California are battening down for what may be the largest storm in 6 years. With predicted rain in the valley of 2 to 4 inches with more than that in the Foothills and Coastal areas concerns of flooding, landslides, power outages etc are valid. With the drought we have had the past couple of years our concerns have been more towards fire risk than flooding so what does storm preparedness look like?
Last night a client of mine Carolyn McMullen posted some great pictures on Facebook of what she has been doing around her barn to prepare and she has generously allowed me to share them here. Why are these pictures of particular interest you might ask? Well it just so happens that prior to focusing more on her fabulous equestrian property, Carolyn made her living in the field of Emergency Management and Disaster Planning. So let's take a look at some of the things on Carolyn's check list and see why the items might be important.
- Rain Gear: If you have horses at home and even if you don't it is very likely that you will have to head out at some point and you will be much more functional if you are wearing the correct gear. Waterproof rain suits, rubber boots and a good hat are a must. Growing up in England a trick I learned was to take a hand towel, roll it length ways and then place around your neck like a scarf crossing in front and tucking inside your jacket. The towel absorbs rain running down your neck and stops your chest getting wet. It is more absorbent than a scarf.
- Stage sandbags, shovels and visqueen: what the heck is visqueen you ask, it's a specific type of plastic s
Have sandbags readily available. ~ Credit Carolyn McMullen
heeting that makes great temporary tarps and is what is used in levees to protect them from wash out. Staging emergency supplies is important because when you need it you don't want to be wasting time trying to find that shovel! Sandbags can be purchased at hardware stores or may be available from your city. Check your local resources. Sand is something we typically have at horse barns, steal it out of the arena, you can put it back later!
- Check roofing, gutters, drains and ditches: Make sure sheet metal is secure, gutters and drains are not blocked etc. You do not need your tack room being leaked on and you want to move water away from critical structures as fast as possible. Which is one reason down pipe extenders are a very good idea. Flapping sheet metal may scare horses and if it becomes fully detached can be a huge hazard in high winds.
- Check chain saw and stage: If you have trees on your property broken limbs may be an issue. Having a fully functioning chain saw may be vital for opening up roadways or in worst case scenario rescuing something trapped by a fallen tree/limb. Make sure the chain is sharp and the gas tank full. Also insure you know how to safely use a chain saw.
- Stage tools: for example drills, hand saws, rakes. Anything that you might need to fix things battered by the storm.
- Check latches, gates etc: High winds will give gates and doors a beating. Make sure they are as secure as possible now.
- Flash lights: Have flash lights, head lamps and battery lanterns ready with extra batteries.
Elevate property that may be damaged by flooding. ~ Credit Carolyn McMullen
- Elevate property: Elevate anything that you can that might be damaged by flood water.
- Drinking water: If your horses only water is in an outside pen consider placing a source of water in his stall in case he does not want to go outside or you have to shut him in. The last thing you want on top of a storm is colic! If you rely on well water and the electricity goes out your pump won't work and so fill up extra water storage devices now. This applies for your drinking water too!
- Hook up truck and trailer: In the case that you have to evacuate having your rig ready to go may save vital time. Make sure tires are inflated and lights work etc. Stock it with hay and feed that you will need for several days. That way you will not be making sudden feed changes that could add to the stress of an already stressful situation.
- Gas up your vehicles: In the event that gas stations are unable to pump and you need to evacuate fill up now.
- Have enough feed: If roads are blocked or you get cut off or power goes down, going shopping for food may not be possible. Stock up with enough feed for horses, pets and yourself for at least a week.
Down spout extenders help move water away from buildings. ~ Credit Carolyn McMullen
- Have gravel on hand: For those low spots that will get muddy have extra gravel available.
- Consider if you could take in someone who gets evacuated. If you live in an area that doesn't flood could you take in others? Consider creating a network with friends of who has what stalls available along with phone numbers.
- Mark your horse: If your horses live out mark them with some form of ID so that if your fences come down and they get loose they can be returned to you. EquestriSafe has a great line of high visibility identification products for you and your horse.
- Have an emergency evacuation plan: Know where you are going and multiple ways to get there in the event that roads are closed. Have all necessary supplies loaded and things such as vital paperwork easily available to grab.
- Don't forget your other pets: Barn cats need somewhere safe and dry to shelter. Consider locking them in a tackroom or garage and providing a litter box so that if you need to evacuate you can grab them easily. Have pet carriers on hand.
- Know what resources are available to you: Here are a few that you might find useful.
- Sacramento Ready Flood and Rain
- Build a Disaster Kit
- Guidelines for large animals
- Emergency Evacuation Resources for Horses in California
- How to create an evacuation plan
When it comes to feeding horses during these wet winter storms your best bet is to increase hay intake and insure they are consuming salt to keep them drinking. Hay is digested through a process of microbial fermentation which is not very efficient and results in a lot of heat production. This helps keep your horse warm from the inside out and is far more effective than a warm bran mash which just warms the mouth for a moment. To learn more on how horses stay warm and how you can help read out 2 part series on how horses thermoregulate part I and part II.
I know there are other things that could be added to the list I've given so let's hear how you prepare. Share your strategies and tips in the comments below. Stay dry and be safe.
Tips For Weathering A Storm by Dr. Clair Thunes & Summit Equine Nutrition LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.summit-equine.com/contact.