Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hurricane Ike and How It Will Affect Us...

Tonight's blog is a departure from the usual format. I have taken a number of emails today from folks who are worried about our dogs, given that we are in the direct path of Hurricane Ike. I thought it would be a good idea to explain our situation, and how we prepare for a hurricane.

We are located in Wharton County, Texas. We are not a coastal county, but an inland county. That means that a hurricane would have to make landfall in Matagorda County, to the south of us, and then travel all the way through Matagorda County and about half of Wharton County before it would be knocking on our door.

Hurricanes weaken quickly, once they hit land. Going over Cuba the past day and a half, Ike was downgraded from a Category 4 hurricane to just a Category 1 hurricane, with winds only 2 mph over the threshold of what it takes to even be called a hurricane. And part of Ike was on land and part was over water.

A hurricane will likely be a tropical storm by the time it reaches our farm. That is still not good, but it is nothing like being socked by hurricane winds on the coast!

We are far enough inland that there is no chance whatsoever that we would be affected by a storm surge, one of the deadliest aspects of a hurricane. The storm surges -- raising water levels by 10' or more in strong hurricanes -- will affect only the people living in coastal areas.

We should be far enough inland that we will not have hurricane force winds -- only gusts of wind that could at times be damaging -- but nothing on a level with what the people in coastal regions will experience!

Our greatest fear with the hurricane is the rain... and the flooding on our property that will come with the rain. Many of you know that we have Texas gumbo soil here. If you are not a Texan, imagine that instead of soil, your yard was coverd with fiberglass or stainless steel -- or some other substance that is completely impervious to water intrusion and repels water like a duck's feathers. THAT is the kind of soil we have here. Unlike our prior farms in San Diego and Phoenix, where water percolates down into the soil and is absorbed, Texas gumbo is impervious to water intrusion! Water just sits until it evaporates from the sunshine!!

All of our outside dogs' housing is raised off grade level by at least 8" and in some cases as much as 24". An 8" elevation should be sufficient to keep all dogs high and dry, even if copious amounts of water are dropped on the farm.

As of 11:00 pm Tuesday, the Weather Channel was still forecasting an area just north of Corpus Christi and just south of Matagorda County as the most likely place Ike will make landfall. There could not be a much worse place for Ike to hit, as far as we are concerned.

That would put us on the northeast side of the hurricane and we could expect to be pummeled with torrential rains from the storm. We do have a new ditch that has been dug to carry water away from parts of the property and divert it to the pond. We are hoping this will be helpful in a storm.

We are unable to evacuate our animals from the property. There are just too many for evacuation to be practical. The process would take too long, and there is no where for them all to go. And don't forget that our animal population includes horses, donkeys, sheep, pigs, Alma cow and the chickens and ducks and geese. Evacuating our farm would require something on the scale of Noah, and I am not even sure if his ark would accommodate all our babies... after all, he only took two examples of each species!

We purchased a huge generator back in 2005 when we moved here. It is monstrously large and occupies a housing unit the size of a small room. Our generator is powered by a diesel engine that could power an 18-wheeler. The idea was to have a generator which would allow us to continue life as we know it without skipping a beat. The electric well pumps will operate, providing water, the stove and refrigerator and washer and dryer will all operate, and the air conditioning units will all continue to do their jobs.

We have at least four of our staff members who have promised to stay in town and not evacuate for the storm, so we will have personnel here to provide care for all our babies. Clarence even offered to come in on Saturday, his scheduled day off, if we need him to help.

We are stockpiling dog food, and other animal feed, just in case stores are closed for a few days after the hurricane hits.

All things being equal, I think we are prepared for this storm.

The most helpful thing anyone can do for us now is to pray! Pray that the hurricane turns and goes somewhere else, so that we do not get the rain that comes with hurricanes!

Jay Hellerich, executive director
smiling dog farms
a 501(c)3 corporation
wharton, texas

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