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Monday, September 8, 2008

Storm Hanna Strikes Ledyard Fair

Nothing like a storm at a fair to make life interesting.

Tropical storm Hanna was supposed to merely be a remnant by the time it reached us. Winds at 30 m.p.h with gusts to 45. Three to five inches of rain. It was supposed to start raining Saturday AM, become dry midday, and pour buckets Saturday PM with the winds. At least that was the forecast when we left home on Friday morning.

The rain started very early Saturday morning. The last squall went through around 7:30 AM. It was cloudy and breezy but dry. We managed to get in our animal shows. Abby and Rachel showed dairy cows, Hannah showed beef cows. Everyone showed goats. Hannah's Polish chicken "Rock Star" won best bird in show and got a big purple rosette. The judge told Hannah she needed to find a "Mrs." Rock Star.

The rain started up again around 3PM. A pouring, driving, rain. We got word through the grapevine that storm Hanna hadn't downgraded. We were going to get 50-60 m.p.h. winds and 7-8 inches of rain.

Around 6PM the fair was closed, the chicken super requested all birds and rabbits go home. The few of us who had other animals and were staying on the grounds opted to leave our birds where they were. We dug trenches through the barns to divert the streams of water away from the animal pens. The chicken tent started to flood around 7PM and all chickens and rabbits were put in the top two tiers of cages. We moved two goats whose pen began to flood. As we ate our dinner, we watched the various vendor tents begin to buckle under the winds.

At 9 PM, Sam and I left Abby in the goat barn while we settled the other girls in the camper. It was about 9:20, I was in my pj's just laying my head on the pillow, when we heard a person running towards to camper and pounding on the door. Abby was yelling that the chickens had blown over!

We all jumped out the door, in our pajamas, and grabbed our boots. I yelled at Rachel and Samantha to stay in the camper. Sam started grabbing our chicken crates and passing them out the door. Nathalie and Hannah raced for the tent. We all imgained a blown over or collapsed tent and 50 loose chickens.

Thankfully when we arrived at the tent it was only the crates that had blown over. The water inside was a foot deep and it appeared as if a bomb had gone off. There were crates dumped everywhere. All the kids from the cow and goat barns were inside trying to catch the loose chickens and get them into crates. Someone drove their car over and shined the headlights in so we could see. Sam had grabbed his flashlight and we tried to identify whose birds were whose. We quickly abandoned that plan due to the wind and inability to see. We decided to put as many hens as we could in each crate and one rooster per crate and haul them up to the cow barn where they would be safe. We would sort them in the morning.

We found all of Hannah's birds and put them into our crates. We went into the rabbit tent and decided to move all the rabbits to the cow barn too as the water in there was rising as well. We also moved some goats to higher ground. In the morning were able to confirm not a single loss! Some of the animals were extremely stressed and since some had been pulled from under crates and boards, the casualties may not occur until later. (Sadly "Rock Star" is one of those chickens that was under crates and he was showing signs of stress last night when we got him home.)

It was 11PM before we got back to our camper, cold, soaked to the skin, and shaky from the addreneline rush. After quite a while we were settled in and lay there listening to the wind howl and the rain pound.

When we got up in the morning we surveyed the damage. The chicken barn looked worse in the light and we again were amazed that no animal had been killed. Those vendors who had taken the storm seriously, had lowered their tents to the ground and they fared well. About five had left their tents as they stood and everything was destroyed and practically unrecognizable.

Sunday was a beautiful day and we began the clean up in order to open the fair at 11AM. They are thinking of making T-shirts for the people who were part of "Operation Chicken Rescue". They'll say "I Survived Hanna at the Ledyard Fair 2008", with a picture of a swimming chicken and floating cows!
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