Tornadoes strike again; veterinarians shaken

Oklahoma veterinarian escapes twister by jumping into kennel

May 25, 2011 (published)
By Jennifer Fiala

Crosstown Veterinary Services was destroyed on Tuesday when a tornado blew through Guthrie, Okla. Dr. Cory Bertrand rode out the storm inside his practice. Photo courtesy of Tasie Bertrand.

Veterinarians are among those shell-shocked in the Midwest, with at least one Oklahoma practice and a shelter confirmed hit by Tuesday’s tornadoes that killed 14 people in three states.

Tornadoes continued to wreak havoc today, touching down in the Kansas City, Mo., area and Sedalia, Mo., this afternoon. Warnings have been issued for St. Louis, where funnel clouds have been spotted.

News of Tuesday's destruction in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas comes as residents in Joplin, Mo., grapple in the wake of Sunday’s twister that killed more than 120 people and obliterated 30 percent of the city.

At least one practice — Dr. John Christman’s Parkview Animal Hospital — was destroyed in Joplin. The Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association reports that Tuesday’s tornadoes struck a veterinary practice and a shelter in the state, though further details were not immediately available.  

This morning, Dr. Cory Bertrand of Guthrie, Okla., was featured on the Today Show. According to the report, the practitioner rode out the tornado by taking shelter in a kennel. While everyone inside of the practice was unharmed, four goats were killed in the storm and a bull had to be euthanized as a result of his injuries. 

Bertrand’s wife, Tasie, tells the VIN News Service that everything is gone, and she’s sifting through the rubble. “We don’t know what to do next,” she says. Much of the practice is no longer standing.

Early reports reveal that Tuesday's tornado activity occurred in mostly rural areas of Kansas and Arkansas. Veterinary medical associations in both states reported that so far, none of their members are reported to have been impacted. 

In a post on the Veterinary Information Network, an online professional community, Dr. Ben Leavens gives a heart-wrenching account of what he and his family have endured and witnessed in Joplin, where he practices. Much of the area still is without electricity. 

“Almost out of battery so will be brief,” Leavens writes to colleagues. “Devastation here in Joplin is beyond imagination. Two of us are out of a clinic. It will be awhile before we can repair/rebuild. We lost our residence, which was in an apartment complex behind Wal-Mart where we were staying due to extensive flood damage three weeks ago. House is now flooding again.”

Upon noting that his wife and children have relocated while he stays behind to aid relief efforts, Leavens concludes his VIN post with: “Central Joplin is an empty prairie, and for once I am not using hyperbole.”

On the Facebook page for Leavens’ practice, it was announced that Main Street Pet Care closed today. The practice had been open earlier this week following Sunday’s storm. 

Dr. Donald Loden’s practice was spared by the tornadoes in Joplin, though the breadth of the destruction has reduced him to tears. In an e-mail to the VIN News Service, he writes that pictures cannot convey the magnitude of the damage:

“My language skills are too small to describe the scene. You drive down the block and everything is normal then suddenly everything is rubble as far as the eye sees. You have difficulty believing a city was ever there.”

He’s amazed that 2,000 to 3,000 aren’t dead.  
“It is only by the grace of God that the death toll is so low,” Loden adds. “None of us know how this will effect us completely, yet.”

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