It’s All Academic Until it Happens to You reporter Pat Raia shares her experiences preparing for and weathering Hurricane Irma.

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Pat's boarding barn owner braided laminated identification tags into each horse's mane, just in case the animal needed identification. | Photo: Pat Raia

Veteran journalist and reporter Pat Raia shares her experiences preparing for and weathering Hurricane Irma.

For years I’ve trekked out into blizzards, tornadoes, and hurricanes to collect stories from people who were either preparing for a disaster or had just come though one. I’ve told horse owners what emergency veterinarians advise for helping horses survive in the wind and rain, and whether they fare better in their barns or in their pastures.

I shared advice from contractors about building barns that can endure hurricane-force winds, and I’ve told readers what first responders say about establishing perimeters around barns, houses, and tree lines. Time and time again, I’ve written about the importance of having a disaster plan. But even single one of those concepts was academic until Hurricane Irma danced her way across Florida right under my nose.

Though I did not intend to evacuate my horse Santino, my barn mates, and our trainer and I did have a disaster plan. That’s not to say that I didn’t equivocate—after talking with Floridians from Miami to Tampa who were taking their horses and heading north, I wondered if I shouldn’t load Sonny into a trailer and flee. But to where? To Georgia? That was in the storm’s path too. And my horse-owning friends in the Carolinas were making their own plans to get out of Irma’s way. I thought it better to stay put

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Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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