Hurricane Ian is barrelling toward Florida, forcing millions of people to evacuate as heavy rains, winds and dangerous storm surges come to the state.
As many Floridians prepare for the storm, some with pets may be wondering how to keep their dogs, cats and other animals safe.
Overall, preparing for a major storm with animals involves much of the same steps as preparing for a major storm with just people — plus a few extra steps to keep those pets safe and happy.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes that people facing a hurricane with pets should take all the standard preparations in anticipation of a hurricane, including staying inside, sealing windows and doors and having emergency supplies at hand.
In addition, people may want to keep pets in carriers or crates to keep them safe and protected, the agency adds.
Pet owners trying to hold on during a storm should also make sure their pets will have food, water and proper identification, and that they’re up to date on all their vaccines, since they might come in contact with potentially harmful bacteria or viruses in the aftermath of the storm, FOX 13 in Tampa Bay reports.
If people are under an evacuation order, they should take their pets with them as they leave the area, the FDA says.
They should also plan to take copies of any veterinary records with them in case they need to prove vaccination or health status anywhere.
However, this can get complicated if people are looking for a safe place to stay. While shelters will accept service animals, many will not accept pets — and so evacuating pet-owners may want to look for pet-friendly hotels or other accommodations, the agency says.
These preparations apply to more than just dogs and cats, too. Birds can also be transported in a proper enclosure, with access to food and water. Reptiles like snakes or lizards can also be transported, but in a secure enclosure to make sure they don’t get loose, and with a heat source if the animal needs an external way to warm up.
These needs are similar but scaled up for larger animals like horses and livestock. People planning to evacuate with these kinds of animals should also make sure their animals’ health is up to date and that veterinary records are at hand.
Evacuating with horses and livestock should be done as early as possible, FEMA says. If evacuating these animals isn’t possible, people should have a plan about whether to keep the animals in a barn or let them loose outside.
Some areas will set up shelters for large animals as a disaster strikes, but people should check with local officials if they aren’t sure where to bring their animals.
When travelling with any animal, pet owners should also think about bringing a toy or another way for the animal to stay entertained during what is likely to be a stressful event.
Hurricane Ian is projected to make landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday, with intense rain, winds and storm surge expected through Friday afternoon.
The storm, currently a Category 3 storm in the Gulf of Mexico, is one of the worst to hit Florida’s Gulf Coast since at least Hurricane Charley in 2004.
These kinds of strong storms may become more frequent as the climate crisis accelerates. Warmer oceans and air can create more powerful hurricanes, supercharging them with wind and rain that can cause immense damage as they make landfall.
A United Nations climate science panel has found that the percentage of storms reaching Category 3 or higher has been increasing over the past 40 years.