Hurricane Michael Devastates Florida Panhandle–On-Scene Facebook Reports from Dressage Rider Jodie Kelly on Impact on Horses, People

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Stallion in barn with no roof. Photo Courtesy Jodie Kelly

Oct. 13, 2018

Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle this week as the trongest tropical cyclone to strike the United States since Andrew in 1992. Whole communities have been wiped out.

Dressage rider Jodie Kelly was supposed to be helping her students at the Region 3 Championships near Atlanta this week. Jodie stayed behind in the Panhandle where she has been a lifelong resident of Destin., based in Wellington, Florida, reports on posts from Jodie’s page on what is happening 600 miles/965km) away.

First, one of her posts that reflects the attitude of the Panhandle:

“The Florida Panhandle. The place where snowflakes melt. The place where we count on each other at times like these. We don’t wait for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), we go to work. Neighbor helping neighbor. Ya see, in times like these we don’t cry because the government hadn’t shown up yet. Nope, we grab tools, sandwiches, water and whatever we need to help each other. We drive back roads to reach our families. We wave at first responders and give them the thumbs up as we drive by. We thank God, even though we’ve lost almost everything. The Florida Panhandle, the place where the line between liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican, back and white, Christian and non-Christian, gets erased. We love our neighbors…period. We have all we need here. Faith, Family, Friends and Fortitude. We are the example that the rest of our nation needs to follow. We are Panhandle Strong.”

From Jodie Kelly on Friday Oct. 12:

“Today was like something out of a bad movie… Having heard a lot of different stories regarding Joe Pimentel’s farm, we decided to drive over and check on things ourselves… The devastation is every bit as bad as any one can imagine… Sadly, he did lose 2 horses in the storm, but, luckily, all of the rest seem to have come through pretty unscathed and seem very much at peace there at home… So, our first decision was to leave the horses there and figure out how to make their home more liveable…. Joe would prefer them stay and we all agree that they are better off where they are comfortable… He is well stocked in hay and the mares are all happy out in a couple of fields together… There is a creek along the back of his property that he has been bringing water up from for everyone… it is exhausting work, but, it has been getting them by.

The power of Hurricane Michael. This was a steel barn, metal twisted like twigs and the foundation uprooted. Photo Courtesy Jodie Kelly

“My dad was the hero of the day when he was able to rewire his water pump and connect it to his generator. So, Joe now has running water, which not only gives his horses fresh water, but him flushable toilets and a shower.

“To give you an idea of the raw emotions running through that area, it’s to see a grown man break down in tears at the sight of running water. They have been through hell…

“There are 2 things he is really in dire need of and I am reaching out to anyone reading this, with connections.

“FIRST, he needs something he can live in on the property… he needs to be there with his horses, but a tree went through the roof and his ceiling is falling in.

“SECOND, he needs temporary stabling. He has 7 stallions and his stallion barn was completely destroyed. They have been moved to a barn with extensive damage, most of the roof is missing, but, they are at least contained. We need them out of that ASAP. Oddly enough, he has this one storage building on the far side of his property that was completely untouched. it is perfectly suited to hold the stallions and have temporary stabling set up in them. if anyone has any connections or ideas for this, please let me know!!!

“We will be going back tomorrow and again on Sunday… I don’t have service during the day while I am there, but do when I come out, so, any ideas to meet these two needs would be greatly appreciated.”

From Jodie Kelly Saturday Oct. 13:

“Ok, day 2. NOW we need manpower!!! If you have a chain saw and/or are physically able, WE NEED YOUR HELP!!!
Just like yesterday, we had been hearing about Sara Warner being trapped on her farm, but nobody had details, so off we went to find her today.

“Omgosh, trapped is an understatement.

“The road her farm is on, and then her driveway, which is REALLY LONG, looks like matchsticks…. only with HUGE trees. One team worked on it all day and made it about a 1/4 of the way.

“Sara is OK, but, her only way in or out of her property is by canoe, through a stumpy swamp. She has 7 horses that she is caring for back there by towing barrels of water to them by floating them behind her canoe.

“We are going back tomorrow with more chainsaws and a tractor, but we need more manpower to get her out.

“For anyone that doesn’t know Sara, she was one of the first people driving into the aftermath of Katrina, taking supplies and grain to horses. She didn’t stop until the need stopped. Now it’s our turn to help her. It’s a weeks worth of work with the number of people we had today. Let’s try to rally and get her out tomorrow!!! She is in Grand Ridge, Florida.”

Jodie says she is working with Laurie Hardwick Hood at Alaqua animal refuge, but she has her hands full with small animals and is directing horse-related calls to Jodie.

Donations of supplies can be made to Alaqua and Jodie and friends will distribute from there.

Laurie Hardwick Hood has set up a link for hurricane relief efforts–donations are tax deductible and 100 per cent goes to the animals. If you want donations to go specifically to the horse effort, make note of it.

Jodie plans to organize semi truck loads of shavings and 30+ round bales and has developed a spreadsheet to match donations and needs.

To message Jodie: