Surviving the Storm: Pets Outlive Tornado's Strike
Shelters rescue animals in cyclone's aftermath.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. ─ Silent and still inside a shelter pen, a marmalade cat twisted its face into a wince and waited.
Through the blank stare of a still-terrified cat, this is how a tornado looks nine days after it hit Central Massachusetts.
The storm stayed on the ground for an hour and blew down buildings from Springfield all the way to Charlton. It cut a 39-mile wide swath across the Bay State's midriff, while not just one tornado ─ but according to the National Weather Service, actually three tornados ─ burst through neighborhoods. The storm buckled houses and left them kneeling, sheared off roofs, toppled brick apartment building walls and yanked up trees as if they were toothpicks.
The marmalade cat's Westfield, Mass. house rolled over on its side. That cat and four others in the same household lived under the building until rescue workers brought them out. Their owner had notified authorities that her cats were under the house and needed help. A sixth cat had gone missing and was presumed dead. On June 10, nine days after the disaster, searchers found the missing cat alive. But the marmalade cat's owner will not be coming back to claim it.
After losing everything in the tornado, she also has had to give up her animals.
"They're still scared, but they're safe now," said Candy Lash, the Dakin's director of community and media relations.
They are the lucky ones.
The June 1 disaster killed three people, injured dozens and destroyed hundreds of homes and commercial buildings. Animal rescue workers are still hunting for animals lost in the storm and finding some, but not others, according to Pam Peebles, director of the Thomas J. O'Connor Animal Control and Adoption Center.
Peebles and other animal rescue workers from the Hampshire Emergency Animal Response Team hunted for missing pets the night of the tornado and into the overnight hours of June 2. They started with a list of about a dozen animals whose owners thought the pets were still inside their ruined houses.
"We only found two," Peebles said. They also never found four injured cats. People had reported seeing them with injured legs. But she's not giving up; animals are still being found more than a week after the storm, she said.
"It hasn't been that long," she said.
From June 2 to June 9, the O'Connor took in 48 cats and kittens, 54 dogs, 22 others (including goldfish, a boa constrictor and chickens), not counting 50 guppies.
"We believe about 50 are disaster-related," she said, based on the locations and the stories from the field about confused animals.
The T.J. O'Connor had shelter space because humane workers from New York to New Hampshire took 70 animals that had been in the shelter prior to the tornado, she said.
That made room for the tornado victims' pets. The Dakin, which was also coping with tornado damage, moved animals from the damaged Springfield shelter to its Leverett shelter, where 60 pets found new homes, Lash said, due to an overwhelming response from the public.
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