For anyone that lives in a coastal town the months of June - October have significant meaning to them; Hurricane season. With the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center issuing a pre-season Atlantic hurricane forecast that calls for 5 to 12 named storms, including 1 to 4 hurricanes in 2017, for those of us that live in Coastal communities, we are constantly being reminded of Hurricanes from years past. The 2016 Atlantic hurricane season was the first above average Atlantic hurricane season since 2012, producing a total of 15 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes. It was also the costliest season since 2012, and was the deadliest since at least 2008. The 2017 season is predicting a lower than average Hurricane season due to an El Niño pattern, and even though they are predicting a lower than normal season a smart horseperson always has a plan. DressageDaily thanks Jodie Kelly of Southern Cross Equestrian Center in Destin, Florida for sharing their 'routine'.
Mary Phelps, a Markel Equine Insurance Specialist also points out, that you should not wait until a hurricane (or forest fire) is headed in your direction, before you begin thinking about an evacuation plan or insurance for your horses. "We cannot place insurance on horses when there is a known hurricane or fire approaching, so be sure to think ahead." Mary explains. "Even when horses are being safely evacuated, the trip and storm can cause added stress, and you should be sure to consider protecting your horses and investment with mortality and medical surgical coverage."
An evacuation plan is also required as proof of doing your 'due diligence' as a farm owner or trainer who has horses under their care, custody, and control. "Having horses under your care, custody, and control, is an important responsibility, Phelps adds. "By having an evacuation plan in place, you assure your clients and your insurance company that you are properly prepared. Thanks to Jodie Kelly for sharing her experience. I am sure it will help others develop a plan of their own."
Jodie Kelly of Southern Cross Equestrian Center in Destin Florida Shares Their Hurricane Evacuation Plan
We know of no other family who are better prepared and better organized than the Kelly's of Southern Cross Equestrian Center in Destin, Florida. Located in this beautiful beach resort town in the mouth of the Gulf, on Florida's western coast, Southern Cross is just one block from the ocean, and has survived every attack mother nature has dealt so far.
DressageDaily thanks Jodie Kelly, for sharing with us their "hurricane routine". With her own teaching and training business, Jodie runs the family farm that has been a part of her life for 29 years.
"My family, lives in the beach resort Destin, in Northwest Florida. With my Mom (Laurie Kelly) being the property manager of a private, 76 unit condo on the beach, my Dad (Brant Kelly) being the owner and captain of a charter boat, and our family owning and operating a 36 stall training and boarding barn less than a mile from the beach, our lives revolve around hurricane season. This lifestyle means no family vacations during these months and if for some reason one family member must leave town during these months, if something does brew in the gulf, we come rushing home, towards the storm.
Over the years having so many horses so close to the water, we have come to learn how to get them out of the path of a dangerous storm quickly and safely. Our preparation starts at the beginning of each hurricane season, long before there is even a storm in the gulf.
Because my mom has obligations at her office and my dad has obligations with his boat and not to mention our home, we get the horses on the road first. It is much easier on the horses if we leave before the weather starts to get bad and the people start to get panicky.
We all stare at the weather channel for days and do nothing, then when the decision to go is made, it is a whirl wind until the horses are settled in their stalls at our evacuation site. It could be any time of the day or night, Mom and Dad come to the barn to help pack, wrap and load all of the horses. I leave with my 4-horse and the transport and a majority of the boarders. My parents stay behind to take care of the condo, the boats, the house and all of their other responsibilities. Once all is done, they come with our fifth wheel camper, which will serve as home base during our evacuated days.
Destin is surrounded by water on three sides, and the fourth side is a road that runs directly down the beach. So, in the event of an evacuation, the only way out is over one of two bridges and when we are under mandatory evacuation, they open up all lanes of the bridges going OUT. So, when we leave, we are gone for good, all of the horses must be gone in the first trip.
• We first asses the number of horses we have, compared to the number of trailers we have, compared to the number of trucks we have available, compared to the number of drivers we have for each vehicle.
• We have a form that goes out to every boarder where they can check what they will have available in the event of a storm. Truck, trailer, manpower, or ideally, all of the above. Surprisingly, very few check the “all of the above” box.
• We have some boarders that load up their horses in their trailer and take off with no ties to the barn what so ever. This is fine with us, we just need to know in advance who will be doing that and who we will be responsible for.
• We spend agonizing hours over getting everything else matched up. Which horses will ride in which trailer, and who will be driving them.
Where to Go
With our plan set of HOW to get out, we next have to secure WHERE we are going. There are not that many barns that can house 36 horses at the drop of a hat. Our usual destination is a western barn in Marianna, Florida. It is not too far, but it is inland and the barn is a center isle, cinder block barn. We sign a contract with the owner of the barn every year and send a $20 deposit per stall to hold those stalls for us for an evacuation. If, we don’t evacuate that year, then the money is his. We are HAPPY to make the donation! If we do evacuate, the $20 pays for our first night there.
With all of these arrangements made, we go about our normal life and pray that we won't have to look at those plans ever again. Unfortunately, we usually have to take a look at them a few times in the season. We don’t always have to put them into play though. Depending on the size, strength and direction of the storm, we decide if we are leaving or staying. Sometimes we are not given a choice and it is mandatory.
As if it is not enough to get all of the 30 horses wrapped and loaded, we have to get buckets, hay, grain, and shavings for all of the horses going. That doesn’t sound like much, but when you do the math -
• 3 buckets per horse
• 5 bags minimum of shavings
• at least 2 bales of hay per horse
• 5lbs of grain per horse/pony per day.
It comes out to be, 108 buckets, 180 bales of shavings, 360 lbs of feed (that’s just for 2 days) and 72 bales of hay!!!! It is A LOT of loading!
Once all of the people and horses have arrived safely, the work has only just begun. With a barn full of working horses that are used to being turned out, cooping them up in a stall with the stress of a storm coming is often more than they can handle. To keep them half way sane, we hand walk them all twice a day.
Headed Home.... For Now
After the storm blows through, we go home in reverse order of which we went. My parents head back first to check the damage and make sure we even have a barn to go home to. So far, in the 18 years we have had our boarding barn, we have never had any structural damage.
Usually, it is tree clean up and fence mending that needs to be done. Last time, Destin’s water was contaminated and we had to stay gone for nearly a week until the water was safe to drink again. We do not have the transport come back to bring us home, we usually make a couple of trips back and forth.
It is a stressful time and many ask why we live here, but one trip to the beautiful beaches and you will realize immediately why we do it. After this past hurricane season, I am sure most Floridians have a hurricane story or two and if you didn’t have a plan before, you have one now.
I have many friends that end up in the same situation as us when a storm comes to the Florida coast. I was in close contact with the Poulin family a few years back as they ran from a series of storms with more than 35 horses too."
For the personal attention you deserve contact Mary Phelps, a Markel Equine Insurance Specialist
We are available on the scene, on the road, on the net, and in the office to answer your questions, help you with your applications, and be your direct connection to our Markel Underwriters. We work hard at this process so you don't have to. The application process does not have to be a daunting task. We are here to make it easy, so you can spend time with your horses and clients.
**Currently Markel is not writing property coverage in the state of Florida, however we would be happy to talk with you about Liability coverage for your farm operation.**