Barns Hunker Down in Florida Ahead of Arrival of Hurricane Irma, Labeled Most Powerful Atlantic Storm Ever
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WELLINGTON, Florida, Sept. 6, 2017–Hurricane Irma steam rolled through the Caribbean with no sign of lessening of maximum sustained winds of 185 miles/295 km per hour spread over an area three times the size of the entire state of Florida with preparations being made to protect Many hundreds of horses.
Cars and trucks were lined up for blocks outside gasoline stations, feed stores reported record sales of hay and other supplies, water sold out as soon as it appeared in supermarkets, home construction supplies such as plywood for windows, generators for electricity and propane gas for cooking were selling just as fast.
A major center of concern is the large equestrian community in and around Wellington, home of the Global Dressage and Winter Equestrian Festivals that over the past decade have generated a massive influx of horses year round.
There were too many horses to be moved in a limited number of trucks and trailers out of the path of Irma in the days that remain before the hurricane that was declared the strongest ever impacts Florida. For commercial truckers, it’s a day-long drive to the Carolinas or inland Georgia and another day to return. Transportation companies have made Thursday the cutoff for picking up horses.
Many owners and trainers expressed fears of trucks full of horses being caught inheavy traffic leaving Florida and running out of gas with temperatures inside higher than the outside temperatures of about 85F/30C.
Among those preparing their barns to withstand the impact of Irma and staying in the Wellington area include Oded Shimoni, who also has horses in his stable trained by Robert Dover; David Marcus of Canada and Nicholas Fyffe of Australia with 10 horses at Arlene “Tuny” Page’s Stillpoint Farm; Ilse Schwarz, an Australian with 11 horses; Mikala Münter with seven horses and Lars Petersen with 34.
Most barns in Wellington were built to withstand hurricanes of at least category 3.
In addition to the big barns in Wellington with numerous horses, most owners of all types of horses for all sorts of activities are families in neighboring communities that have nowhere to go.
Red Barn, located in Loxahatchee and probably the largest feed store in the Wellington area, reported record sales of hay and feed Wednesday and Thursday, even more than during the peak of the winter circuit. The store planned to stay open into Saturday depending on weather conditions and the need of many employees to take care of their homes and families.
Although several trailers and trucks were seen loading horses or leaving Wellington Wednesday, the numbers were tiny compared with the convoys that bring horses to the area for the winter circuits of dressage, jumping and polo.
Irma is measured by the U.S. National Hurricane Center at at 400 miles/645 km wide that makes it three times the size of Florida. Even before it impacts Florida, Gov. Scott Walker has declared a state of emergency, warning that Irma is “incredibly dangerous and deadly and will cause devastation.” The projected cost is already estimated at up to $130 billion.
The winds of more than 160 miles/258 km per hour easily broke the record of being sustained for more than 18 hours–at least 22 hours by the time of this writing.