Animal death toll unknown after Moore twister

At least four veterinary clinics still operating in devastated area

May 21, 2013 (published)
By Phyllis DeGioia; Jennifer Fiala

Photo by Emily Garman
Central Oklahoma Humane Society veterinarian Dr. Beth Ruby and Amy Shrodes, director of outreach, examine a dog coming into the temporary shelter.
Employees of Scoggins Animal Clinic were watching the ominous sky over Moore, Okla., when they decided to leave the practice, pick up a staff member's child from day care and gather in the storm shelter at her home.

Five minutes after closing the storm shelter door, a massive tornado with 200 mph-plus winds passed overhead. The National Weather Service gave the tornado that hit Moore a preliminary EF5 rating, the highest rating on the scale meteorologists use to measure wind estimates.

"It sounded like four or five freight trains," receptionist Dianne Bracelin recalled. "You could feel it rumbling. When it stopped, we went out. The house we were in was hit but not destroyed. Outside it looked like a bomb went off. We saw a dead woman on the side of the street and covered her up. The day care center was gone, although (we learned) no one was hurt. We walked five miles back to clinic."

The veterinary clinic and the animals inside were spared. "We got missed on both sides. The neighborhood behind us is gone," Bracelin said. 

It's unclear how some veterinary practices in the area fared after the massive tornado pulverized the Oklahoma City suburb on Monday afternoon, killing at least 24 people — nine of them children — and injuring 230 others. Of the seven veterinary clinics in Moore, three others are confirmed to be OK: Eye Care Clinic for Animals, Shields Animal Clinic and Ranchwood Veterinary Hospital.

Shortly after Monday's storm, a group of veterinarians set up a triage unit under the awning of a still-standing Home Depot. State Veterinarian Dr. Rod Hall said the Oklahoma National Guard gave them a tent to use, where they took in approximately 60 to 70 animals. Volunteers now are attempting to relocate those animals because emergency workers want to evacuate the area, said Emily Garman, a website creator with ties to local animal humane groups.

She's started a Facebook page to help coordinate rescue efforts and spread the word about the status of displaced, injured or found animals.

Garman explained by phone that the Home Depot triage site is being moved to the Cleveland County Fairgrounds in Norman, Okla. Veterinarians are among those stepping up to help shelter animal refugees.

"As emergency workers are pulling (the animals) out, they're disbursing them to animal hospitals," she said. "Many veterinarians have stepped forward and (are) saying, 'I have room for five' or 'I have room for 10.' There's no way to track where these animals are going, so that's why I started the site."

She added that volunteers are gathering at the Riverwind Casino parking lot in Norman, where they are bused into areas where they're needed.

Photo by Emily Garman
A distraught woman searching for her lost pet speaks to a Central Oklahoma Humane Society representative.
Apart from the Cleveland County Fairgrounds, other facilities taking in healthy displaced pets include the City of Moore Animal Shelter, Central Oklahoma Humane Society's quarantine facility (next to the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter) and the Animal Resource Center of Oklahoma City.

The Animal Resource Center's Facebook page reads: "We are opening as a relief center for animals affected by the tornado. If you have no place to keep your pet tonight or find one wandering, we will try and take it in. We do not have that many crates, so anything that you can provide us will help. Call us at 405-604-2892. Their address is 7949 S I-35 Service Road, Oklahoma City, OK."

The center's Facebook page also notes that displaced horses and livestock are being taken for boarding to a 10-acre fenced pasture at 1401 West Seneca in Okmulgee, Okla.

Hall, the state veterinarian, said it's too early to tally animal injuries and deaths. "We really don't know for sure yet," he said.  

He added that Assistant State Veterinarian Dr. Michael Herrin was en route to Orr Family Farm in Oklahoma City, where livestock and horses reportedly died amid the devastation.
"It took a direct hit," Hall said.

The farm's website reads: "Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. Unfortunately, Orr Family Farm and adjacent property sustained an extreme amount of damage. We are currently assessing the damage to both property and animals."

That seems to be the state of many in the Oklahoma City area. Bracelin, the veterinary clinic staff member who took cover in a colleague's storm shelter, is bracing for more bad weather.

Speaking at noon Tuesday, she said hail began to fall.


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