GliderVet Newsletter  |  Sugar Glider Vet Newsletters 2004

GliderVet #33: Special Hurricane Edition

This Month in the GliderVet Newsletter

Greetings all!

First off, I would like to start by saying how grateful we are to so many of you for calling and emailing us during the recent six week run of killer hurricanes. It’s been an extremely difficult month and a half and we hope that the worst is behind us so we can get back to doing what we do best and what we enjoy the most.

As we write this newsletter, Tropical Storm Lisa still churns in the Atlantic. Let us pray that she doesn’t know the same circle dance of her peers, Ivan and Jeanne. We just hope we aren’t reporting in December, "…Live from Florida, where Hurricane Zelda sits off the coastline and residents are asked to apply for Canadian citizenship..."

This month, we are offering this special edition newsletter in "blog" format to talk about life on the Florida coastline this summer. We know that many of our readers have been likewise affected not just in Florida, but along the whole Gulf Coast and the Eastern Seaboard as well. And we hope that each and every one of you has avoided serious tragedy. We feel blessed that we were spared any major damage in our homes, as well as our sugar glider breeding facility, and as we sigh in relief, will share our story with you.

Before we jump into the serious business, we feel that no GliderVet newsletter would be complete with at least some attempt at humor, so let’s start with a few puns we've been hearing across Florida lately.

How do you spell relief?

We miss the good old days … when talking about the weather was idle pastime and a crisis was a bad hair day.

New Chamber of Commerce Message:
Welcome to the Plywood State

On the political front, why did our state spend so much money on new voting machines? We could have used that money for something else, not much chance of hanging chads in this wind!

And last but not least, let’s dispel any rumors you might have heard. We are NOT changing our name to WindCoast Sugar Gliders. Nor are we changing our name to Seattle Sugar Gliders. We will remain SunCoast Sugar Gliders, knowing the sun will come out tomorrow!

Hurricane Charley
So what?

The weather stations began reporting that this hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico was headed directly for us in the Tampa Bay area. Sounding a bit ominous, they predicted the storm would mostly likely hit us on Friday the 13th. As we hadn't had a direct hurricane threat in our area for awhile, we figured mother nature had decided it was our turn this year - after all, hurricanes are just one of the realities of life on Florida's gulf coast.

After taping all the windows, we bought canned food, fresh batteries, bottled water and candles. We all live in solid houses, and the "sugar shack" was built to withstand a minimum of a Category 3 hurricane. At the time, Hurricane Charley was only a Category 1 hurricane, so we did not feel overly anxious.

But as the storm approached the coast, the news changed suddenly and drastically - Charley was predicted to become a Category 4 storm by landfall, and was making a hard right turn. While we breathed a sigh of relief that it had turned away from us, we felt awful (and guilty) for the poor folks in Punta Gorda. Since Charley was not originally expected to head their way, they had very little time to prepare for a storm, let alone a storm of such magnitude. Meanwhile, the weather in Tampa Bay remained beautiful, with the exception of a brief rain squall.

As luck would have it, I had business in Punta Gorda the day after Hurricane Charley swept through the city and couldn’t believe what I saw. Though only 120 miles south of us, I drove through a 2-mile stretch that was unrecognizable. EVERY tree was sheared about six feet high. EVERY highway sign was down and the metal framework that holds the signs up was twisted beyond recognition. EVERY street light was bowed in half. Nearly EVERY rooftop I saw was either gone or severely damaged. It was unbelievable how much destruction this compact storm inflicted.

Our thoughts go out to everyone in Punta Gorda. And we'd like to recognize one of our suppliers whose warehouse took some severe hits from Charley, yet still managed to run business as usual come Monday - Hats off to them!

Hurricane Frances
Buy Supplies? Where?

As the shock of Charley’s destructiveness on Central Florida set in, we got news that a large, powerful Hurricane Frances was lurking in the Atlantic! Huh? Knowing the destructive path Charley left deep into the State, we figured taping windows was not the smartest way to handle the situation. And although Frances was expected to make landfall on the East Coast, we didn't feel confident we were out of danger on the West Coast, so we decided we'd better prepare for this one more thoroughly than we prepared for Charley.

But sold out signs were everywhere - no D batteries or plywood to be found (BTW, our area never received our allotment before Frances even came ashore!) Even just basic commodities, such as gas, water, ice, milk and bread were difficult to come by. Generators were no where to be found. And for those who wanted to evacuate from the path of Frances? Fuggetaboutit! With so many people misplaced from Charley, hotel rooms were booked up across Florida.

Needless to say, all this hurricane preparation was starting to take its toll on all of us here at SunCoast. We were falling behind on many of our chores and duties, so our workload was increasing quickly. Meanwhile, our part time helpers had their own personal safety and family issues to deal with, so we were feeling a bit overwhelmed! As we struggled to keep our families and homes safe, we tried to provide the best customer service possible here at SunCoast.

Although the majority of Florida's damage from Hurricane Frances was carried by the East Coast, she did her fair share of damage in our area. By the time she reached St. Petersburg, she had been downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, but she stayed for two and half days, causing extensive damage to trees and fences. While we were left with a lot of cleanup, we were grateful that was all we had to deal with.

Hurricane Ivan

Holy &*%$#. THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE! Yet another hurricane? Number three in four weeks! And this one had an early projected path of landfall in St. Petersburg. Here we go again!

With all the debris from Frances' over-extended stay, how would cleanup crews have time to remove the mess before Ivan made landfall? We started picturing tree limbs and branches from Frances morphing into deadly projectiles during Ivan (...gulp!)

We spent a full day with chain saws and other equipment cutting all this mess down to size because we figured that the only way we would protect ourselves was to just move all the debris out ourselves. And then we loaded nine truckloads of tree debris and took them to the local landfill.

Then we had a clever idea to make fence repairs before Ivan to prevent the fence from ripping apart and flying around. Looking back, that probably wasn’t our best use of time.

This Ivan really had some teeth … some big ugly teeth! We knew we were fortunate in rounds one and two, but we were pretty sure this sucker was going to be a force to contend with. As I cried on the phone with my sister in Texas and shared with her how burnt out we were with all this, her husband offered to leave right away and drive down to bring us a brand new generator and any other supplies we needed. And HE DID! He drove 18 hours straight to make sure we had all the things we could no longer get locally.

My other sister in New Orleans told me that the Home Depot parking lot had more Florida license plates than any other! So many others had the idea too, to go out of state for provisions.

Hurricane Ivan, by far, caused the most grief and angst around here. I had the unfortunate experience of being in Pass Christian, MS the day before Hurricane Camille hit. The house we were staying at was completely gone the next day - not a single two by four, nail, shingle, appliance or anything else was left on the property! After hearing the weather folks compare Ivan to Camille, I was panicked.

Here’s where the anxiety came in and why a generator was critical to our sanity. IF we evacuated the path of this deadly storm, what would happen to the sugar gliders? If we boarded up the Sugar Shack, which we feel was built quite well (after all we paid extra for that), would the animals survive? Chances are that power would be out. If we left, we would not likely be able to return for two or three days. We felt that sufficient food and water could be left, but without cleaning and no circulation, the ammonia build up from urine would surely gas them all to death!

So if we leave, we felt like we were signing their death warrant. If we stayed, we felt like we could be signing our own.

Our decision became quite easy when we really thought about the reality of what this meant. If we did leave, where would we go? Hotel rooms were booked deep into Georgia and all the way through Texas! But we discovered our neighbor had access to a solid block, windowless building just a few blocks from our homes, so our plan was to evacuate into this solid structure if necessary.

And then once again, the weatherman declared that St. Petersburg was no longer the expected target. Ivan the Terrible moved far west, with the new projected target between the Florida panhandle and Louisiana. Yet as my friends and neighbors sighed in relief, I still remained on the edge of my seat, as New Orleans is my hometown and most of my family still resides there.

My family decided to evacuate and it took them eleven hours to travel from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, which is typically less than a one-hour drive. They were hoping to get to Texas, but fortune smiled upon them as the storm veered to a more Easterly direction and took most of its toll on….you guessed it, Florida!

Hurricane Jeanne
Who cares?

Another hurricane in the Atlantic? So many of my neighbors had the “who cares anymore” attitude. Many have had their windows boarded for well over a month by now and what do you call the emotional state past burn out? There was nothing anyone could do at this point. We all had as much supply material as we were going to get. We’ve already discussed all emergency plans so many times before. As Jeanne ripped through our area, we watched football games. Why watch the news? Just look out the window!

We did get some damage from this one. The fence we mended so well from Frances was really a mess this time. We’ve received minor roof damage on two buildings and more downed tree stuff. Forty percent of our county was out of power and half of that still out of power on the day I’m writing this.

Calgon, take me away!

The Aftermath

Thank you for allowing us to share this tale with you; it's been a great help emotionally to pour all of this out onto your screen. From what we’ve heard, a recurrent event like this has not happened since the late 1800’s. I’m sure that those of you who are safely far away from these happenings have seen plenty about it on the news.

According to an article in the September 28 issue of the St. Petersburg Times, Bob Hartwig, chief economist of the Insurance Information Institute was quoted as follows when asked about the economic extent of the damage of these four hurricanes: “This damage gives Florida the dubious distinction of getting hit by four of the six most costly hurricanes in six weeks.” This is an extremely sobering perspective. So many people have contacted us to see how they could help, and well guys, we’re not too proud to ask for help. We could really use your help in a couple of ways...

First, we’ve not yet mentioned Dr C in this blog and with all that she has done for us and the glider community over the years, we felt it appropriate to share with you some of the challenges she has.

About a year ago, Dr C accepted a position at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which is not set up to be like SeaWorld, but rather an aquarium who’s mission is to save stranded sea species, particularly endangered species, as well as supporting research and education. To find out more about this organization, click here.

The aquarium lost power during the last storm, putting them in a critical position. Food supplies for certain sea animals are in short supply, and the aquarium has already received its full fish allotment for the month of October. Because of the power outage, our own Debbie joined in with a group of other concerned volunteers to help move 7,000 pounds of frozen fish to ensure that the proper refrigeration was secured to preserve the diet needs of the aquarium wildlife for the whole next month.

Dr. C also incurred what we had all feared to be a very serious personal injury. She was called out to perform a much-needed procedure on a 300-pound loggerhead turtle and because the aquarium relies heavily on volunteer personnel, she found herself faced to handle this procedure short handed. Typically four or five bodies are needed to keep the such an animal still so the Doctor can do her work. As enough hands were not available, she chose to proceed and the turtle tried to flip on her, catching her wrist in a very awkward position. Initially we feared her wrist was broken, and thankfully this was not true, but she still has some mending to do.

I just spoke with her moments ago and she shared with me another very sad story. Yesterday she was called to save a stranded bottlenose dolphin. NO other aquariums throughout Florida or neighboring states have any room to house any more stranded sea life. She coordinated efforts to create a make shift holding tank. This dolphin must be attended 24 hours and moved constantly or it will die. The aquarium organization does not have sufficient funding to take on any more animals. Dr C is heartbroken that this poor defenseless creature may have to be put down if arrangements can’t be made for its care.

So how can you help? If you wish to make a donation to help with Dr C’s efforts, please use the link above and send a check directly to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. You must put the following designation on your check or in a letter; this is the only way to ensure that Dr C will have the administrative power to put the money directly into the care of the animals. Otherwise it will become “General Funds” and may be put to other use:

Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Veterinary Department (Dr Cianciolo)

Second, SunCoast could also use your help. Over the last month and half, we have had many people tell us that they will just wait to order products until the Hurricane(s) are over. Our business has been down while our expenses have increased. Florida insurance policies include this nice little clause about hurricane deductibles being per event, not annual deductibles, so the cumulative effects on these storms is basically “not covered” for any of us.

And despite all the craziness throughout this hurricane season, we are proud to report we have shipped your orders every day UPS was working and available to pick them up! Our sugar glider customers are very important to us, so we can finish picking up those trees later. If you really want to show us some love, then get the “Glider Gang” busy packing by placing an order! That would help out a lot.

We are a small company trying to do our best to help sugar gliders and the people that love them, so we need your support now more than ever! If you've had your eye on that special toy or treat for your precious suggie, now would be good time to splurge and grab that item from SunCoast. Maybe some of our new Mango Chunks, or if you need to wheel-train small joeys, a Wodent Wheel Jr.?

Before we sign off, special thanks to Teddy Bear and his sidekick for their good deeds during a very difficult time:

Sugar Gliders to the Rescue!

Until next month, when we expect to return to our familiar format and fun, thank you all for taking the time to read this newsletter and for all of your support.

We love you all!

Lisa, Debbie, Barbi, Jimbo, Dr C, our staff,
and of course Arnold and the rest of the glider gang.

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That's it for this month's GliderVet Newsletter. I hope you liked what we had to offer! If you have any stories, questions, pictures, suggestions for topics - anything glider - you would like to share or see covered in the GliderVet newsletter, please send them here.

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Viva La Glider! Arnold

SunCoast Sugar Gliders

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