Twenty-five years ago our offices would have been underwater this weekend. Hurricane Hugo came on shore slightly north of Mt. Pleasant, and the category 4 storm caused significant damage from the South Carolina coast and throughout much of the Southeast.
Hugo, like recent storms Katrina, and Sandy greatly affected the lives of residents in its path, but what about our animal friends? Imagine coming back to an oyster bed in your living room!
As the winds mix the ocean waters and whip branches through the sky animal habitats are being disturbed. Birds and fish tend to be mobile, but as they are pushed inland to unfamiliar and inhospitable terrain or out to sea where salt water is all around many animals struggle to survive. The endangered Puerto Rican Parrot population was nearly cut in half after Hugo passed over the island.
Many animals instinctually know where to seek shelter during a storm and many marine animals are not negatively affected by the storms. Manatees find shelter, and except for one manatee found in a golf course pond after hurricane Andrew, they and other large marine mammals adapt well.
Land mammals are also good at seeking low-lying shelter; however rehabilitators take in an abundance of injured and sick squirrels after a hurricane due to falling trees and loss of nests.
Twenty-five years later our South Carolina coast is booming with vegetation and animals. Sea turtles, dolphins, fish, squirrels, lizards, deer and even a few bobcats are our neighbors, but living on the coast also comes with the danger of another large hurricane to come through. We have computers and weather data that help us know when to evacuate for safety, our animal friends use their instincts that trouble is coming.
If you want to learn more about how animals prepare and survive during hurricanes read Ready, Set…Wait! by Patti R. Zelch and illustrated by Connie McLennan.