"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Isaac arrived Saturday evening as a tropical storm. Charles had picked up more hay and shavings for Diana and me at Finish Line feed on Friday morning on his way back from work, so both Diana and I were set for the storm supply-wise. I was called to work relief at another veterinary hospital all day Saturday until 10pm, and so I did not make it out to the barn that day to get my things in order. Diana took care of everything-she took all of hers, Mark's, Dianne's, and my stuff that we had hanging either in front of our stalls or in our tack stall into the feed room, where it wouldn't blow away.

Judy found on Craig's List someone selling giant plastic drums for storing water, and purchased 3 of them for the barn. We have well water, and without electricity, the well pump won't work, so this was a good thing to have regardless. Judy has never lived through a tropical storm nor a hurricane before (she is from the Midwest), and was afraid. She had discussed moving all of the horses down to the end closest to the feed room and boarding up the walkout entrances, but no one liked this idea: if the power went out, the horses would roast in their stalls, and if the storm turned as expected, we would probably only get a lot of rain and a little wind. Plus it was a lot of work, and we've all been exhausted at the barn. There have been some issues going on with Judy and we are all doing a lot more work than we originally expected when we came to board here. We're tired, and none of us boarders who are seasoned hurricane veterans were particularly worried about Isaac, especially given that every 12 hours the news reports were placing the storm track further south and west of Florida.

Well, I had to stay up very late Saturday night because I was working an overnight relief shift at the same hospital again on Sunday night. Charles was home for the night, too, so we made a 2:00 am run to the local Walmart Supercenter and rented The Hunger Games. The movie ended up being a long one, so at 4:30 am, when the first bands of wind and rain hit us, I was wide awake. I thought Diana had been overreacting by bringing all of our stuff into the feed room, but at that point, I was really glad she did.

I woke up at 3:00 pm to on-and-off rain and wind. At 4:00 pm I drove to the barn when there was a lull in the weather. It was picking up again as I turned onto our street. This street runs in front of the park. One portion of the road has a row of trees by a pond that were serving as a very visible barrier from the wind and rain, as further down the street, where there were no trees, you could see the wall of wind and rain that was sweeping in from the park.

An example of tropical storm weather

The driveway to the barn was beginning to flood, as it always does when it rains a lot, but the rain stopped as I parked. Water was draining from the walkouts into the parking lot, and in a desperate measure to not get my sneakers wet, I took them off and, carrying my socks in my hand, I hopped into the ankle-deep water barefoot and ran into the barn.

Mark and Dianne were there, and they had been at the barn most of the day taking care of storm preparations. According to the news per Mark, the worst of the storm had already passed that morning, but I didn't believe it given what I had just seen on the short drive to the barn. Judy had parked her horse trailer right in front of Bali's walkout in a vain attempt to block the wind, but it looked like the Tower of Pisa when seen from the front-tilted towards the walkout thanks to the graded footing between the ends of the walkouts and the parking lot. Diana had not been happy when she had seen it. First of all, the wind comes from all directions with tropical storms and hurricanes, and second, if the winds had been stronger, that trailer would have ended up on top of the Bali's walkout fence, if not Bali herself. Bali's colic back on the 4th of July was not managed well by Judy, and Diana is reaching her wits' end with the handling of her horse by the barn manager.

You just don't do this:
Judy's trailer lined up in front of Bali's walkout: the Leaning Trailer of Pisa. The wind came from the east/southeast, towards the barn...had it been a real storm, this trailer would've toppled over for real.

when you know that this can happen:

Trailer turned over by the winds from Hurricane Georges, a category 3 storm that split Puerto Rico in two in 1999. I experienced it first-hand. Photo courtesy of Sol Boricua.
Mark tried to explain to Judy that the trailer was a bad idea, but she wasn't listening. You can understand why Diana, another experienced hurricane veteran, did not take take that sight above well.
Lily's stall was soaked from the rain that had blown in through her walkout entrance. (And so was Bali's-the trailer did NOTHING in terms of blocking wind and rain!) Mark had locked everyone except for Bali in with their stall guards-Bali was the exception because she will simply plow through her stall guard if she feels like going outside. Judy had had Mark move the muck buckets that we use as a water supply from the turnouts into the horses' stalls. Initially I wasn't thrilled with the possibility of Lily overturning a giant muck bucket of water in her stall, but this turned out to be a smart move in the end.

All of the horses were wearing their fly masks to protect their eyes from flying shavings, which was a good idea. I placed Lily on the crossties with her soaked beet pulp/grain mix, and let her eat while I stripped her stall. She didn't care about the wind blowing through the barn. My little Florida mare.

Lily enjoying her dinner despite the nasty storm

4 wheelbarrows full of wet shavings later, the stall was clean down to the mats. I laid down a bag of ultra fine shavings to soak up the wet from the mats, and coarser shavings on top. Normally I would've bedded the stall down deeper, but I knew I'd be stripping the stall again the next day, and if the storm got bad overnight, I doubted Lily would feel inclined to lay down in her stall anyway.

Diana arrived when I was halfway done with my stall, as Mark and Dianne were leaving, and we quickly fed all of the horses and topped off water buckets. Everyone received 2 full haynets for the night, as I was going to be at work and Diana was not driving back out to the barn in the middle of the storm to do the late dinner. We were done by 6:00 pm. The horses were as safe and comfortable as we could make them.

As I was driving home, a ferocious band of rain moved in, the rain coming down so hard that I could not see the road, even with the truck windshield wipers at maximum speed. In the 5 minutes it took for me to get home, however, the rain vanished as suddenly as it had appeared, and I was able to run from the truck to our house without getting drenched.

I was able to drive to work inbetween bands of rain, thank God, though I still witnessed a car crash into the guardrail right in front of me on the Turnpike heading north, and drove past multiple fallen trees as I was arriving at Boynton Beach. Not pretty. I walked into the emergency hospital to find a waiting room full of clients and their pets, all of the rooms occuppied and, in the ICU, a dog that had been just brought back from the dead with CPR. Talk about a stormy night. It was total and absolute chaos, like something out of a movie. Within half an hour, I had taken radiographs on 2 patients, placed an IV catheter and drawn blood on a third that was being hospitalized, triaged another incoming emergency, and presented a treatment plan to a fifth client in an exam room. The pace was maddening. The 2 technicians that were supposed to leave at 8pm stayed until 10pm to help us get caught up, but also because the weather outside was so bad it wasn't safe to drive.

Around 10pm, the emergencies stopped arriving, and we were able to catch up. By 11:30, we had either sent the clients back home with treated pets, or had hospitalized the patients that needed further medical attention. The storm outside was just getting worse by the hour. At midnight the two doctors, the other tech and I all sat down in front of the computer to check the radar, and saw that a massive rain band was moving over us, with more coming right behind it. None of the forecasts had said it was going to be this bad. There was horizontal rain outside, and the trees were being whipped and beaten mercilessly by the wind.

At 2:00 am there was a lull in the storm and we were able to take the hospitalized dogs outside for a walk, but by 3:00 am the onslaught began again. This was the image I found online of Isaac, courtesy of www.weather.com:

Isaac Sunday night

As you can see, the wind and rain we were receiving over South FL were pretty much equal in intensity to that at the eye of the storm. This explained a lot. Still, the hourly forecasts didn't even begin to describe what we were experiencing in person. We were dreading the morning and having to drive back to our homes in the storm.

Judy texted at 6:00 am - the electricity was out at the barn, but everyone was fed and watered.

Charles had an easy drive home from downtown Fort Lauderdale, but my drive home turned out to be pretty much as bad as I expected. It was windy in Boynton, but with a timid sun peeking out among the clouds. Halfway home on the Turnpike heading south, I could see the bands of rain-the road disappeared into a gray nothing topped off by dark, ominous clouds. I drove through 4 of these bands, one right after the other, a full 20 minutes of pummeling rain and driving wind, where the water was coming down so hard I could barely see the car in front of me. I had to hold the steering wheel with both hands to keep the car in my lane. It was terrifying.  It really should be illegal to drive around in tropical storms. Florida doesn't take them seriously, endangering the lives of everyone who is forced to go to work in inclement weather. It's ridiculous. A tropical storm can turn into a hurricane at a moment's notice if the conditions are favorable, and it has happened in the past in Florida. And then what do you do? You stay stuck at work for the next 24-48 hours, in a building that may or may not be hurricane safe, or you drive home in dangerous conditions to make sure your family and your posessions are safe? It's a catch-22.

In Puerto Rico, everything was shut down 24 hours before the storm, whether category 3 hurricane or just a tropical storm, and for 24 hours after to ensure that people stayed safe. I prefer this approach BY FAR.

We did have electricity at home, so I was able to shower with hot water and go to bed with AC. I went to the barn around 6:00 pm. It was cloudy outside, but the wind had died down, and it was sprinkling on and off. The power returned to the barn as I was walking in! It was good that the muck buckets had been placed in the stalls, as it had meant no one had had to worry yet about having to fill their water buckets from the water drums.

There were puddles in the turnouts and the arena, but it has been worse, so I turned Lily out with Willy while I cleaned her stall. The stall was pretty wet, as expected, though not as wet as on Sunday. Lily had a grand old time playing with Willy in Bali's turnout after 48 hours of being cooped up in her stall.

"Come on Willy, let's play!!"

Snorting at the big water puddle

Willy started looking for the perfect spot to roll, and Lily followed suit

A little rolling competition...*lol*

Lily's bucks

And an example of just how much air she can get between herself and the ground. That's a good 3 feet! From the angle of the photo it looks like she was about to kick at Willy, but she was even with the puddle-Willy was a good 20 feet away from her, and just happened to be running around in the background.

Her floaty trot

And a nice uphill canter

A more extended trot.


And they're off again...

I took out 3 wheelbarrow-fulls of wet shavings from her stall, and bedded it down deep. Around that time Diana arrived, and she put Bali out in the arena. Lily is in FLAMING HEAT and kept flirting with Bob over the fence and squirting, so I moved her and Willy out to the arena with Bali. The dressage arena had been taken down, and the horses had an absolute blast running back and forth through the water without having to jump over the dressage arena rails. The arena looks so much bigger without the dressage rails up. I wouldn't mind if Judy left it as is.

Lily and Bali walking off in the arena, almost perfectly synchronized

All hyped up from running around

I set up Lily's feed while the horses ran around and around outside. I finally went to get Lily, and they had settled down to grazing. Bali gave me a hard time when I went to get my mare, trying to wedge herself between Lily and the gate so she could escape first. I had to chase her off. Sometimes Bali tries to use her size and weight to get what she wants. I didn't let her this time. Diana ended up coming to our rescue and helped me close the gate behind Lily before Bali could try to charge through again. Lily was getting worked up, being her typical in-heat hypersensitive self, and ignoring what I was asking her to do, so I turned her around and calmly had her back up all the way down the hallway to the wash rack. I hooked her up to the crossties, and her eyes were bugging out, calling for Bali while Bob ran in and out of his walkout in the stall next door. *sigh* Horses.

I ignored Lily's nervousness and she settled down while I hosed her off on the crossties, since she was splattered with wet sand from the arena, and noticed that she is resting her left hind a lot. She always seems to rest it, but she was resting it more tonight. I felt all up and down her leg, and couldn't get a reaction from her, so her tendons seem to be okay. She does have a little crack in her frog, and I'm wondering if she doesn't have some thrush in there that's flaring up with all of the wetness of the last 2 days. I applied some Dry Cow Today to the crack and put her in her nice fluffy dry stall, leaving the stall chain up for one more night. I want to see what that leg looks like tomorrow. Hopefully it's just a bad case of thrush.

A watery moon was visible driving out of the barn, with some clouds sweeping in, but more like a normal South FL late summer evening.

And that was it for Tropical Storm Isaac.

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