Hurricane Earl is skipping his way parallel to the East Coast right now, so I guess this is timely.
Here is a great resource for those in North Carolina (even if you don't live in the state it has good information): www.ces.ncsu.edu/disaster/factsheets/pdf/horsefarms.pdf
Hurricanes are like those Choose Your Own Adventure books. Every choice you make has a consequence, and regardless it is going to be somewhat eventful (and probably not in a good way but in the way of you being super annoyed, sweaty, wet or just plain miserable).
I like to think that Bud and I are veterans when it comes to hurricanes, and I hope I have good information to share.
So like a CYOA story, you are faced with your first decision:
1. Turn to page X, if you decide to stay and wait out the hurricane.
2. Turn to page Y, if you decide to evacuate.
This decision must be made 48 hours before landfall, as far as I'm concerned. 24 or 12 hours before hand is simply too late. My rule for evacuation is this: I'd rather look silly and waste my time than put my life or my horse's life at risk.
I have not had to evacuate Buttercup ever (now that I said that I will probably have to soon), but my other rule of evacuation is this: Category 4 and 5 with landfall within 100 miles means go time, now.
So you've decided to stay and wait out the hurricane. Here's some things you should know: it's going to suck. Even a brush-by will suck and require some sort of preparation.
Here is a list of what you need:
1. Proper fitting halters
2. ID tags for halter (I like dog tags from Petsmart)
3. Orange spray paint
Know your area.
Does it flood? Keep the horses out of any structure if it is prone to flooding. And cut electricity. Last thing you want is to come back to barbecued horses in the pasture.
How is your barn built? If it is cinderblocked or cemented into the ground, you may be OK keeping the horse in unless you're getting sustained winds of more than 100 mph.
Debris is also your enemy. Clean up the barnyard, pastures, whatever. Be proactive. You'll be amazed at what flies in even 30 mph winds. Impalements are common when it comes to high winds and debris.
So now you're at another crossroad, but the solution is the same. Keep the horses in, put the halters, IDs and flymasks on. Put them out in the pasture, same deal.
What's up with the orange spray paint, you may ask? Oh, well sometimes halters break and you lose your ID tags. If the barn tears down or a tree falls on a pasture fence, and the horses break free, you're depending on a scrap of leather and your horse's lack of getting into trouble to bring him back home. So if it's gonna be a bad hurricane, spray paint a contact number on the side of your horse. Yes, it really sucks to clean up. But getting your horse back to care for him takes priority over cleaning issues.
Congratulations! You're about to embark on one of the most frustrating experiences of hurricanes, where you may instantly regret risking your life because of the mounting inconvenience. There are horrendous traffic and price gougers and much more nipping at your wallet and your sanity.
But, this is often the safest option for your critters and yourself. Better to evacuate and look silly and be super annoyed, than be trying to reach the guy with the backhoe, if you get what I'm saying. Hurricanes are really serious, and I hope my post — though slightly fun — can at least convey that message.
Your state extension office will have a list of evacuation sites. Call them and they will give them to you. Most will be free, but you need to bring shavings and feed (7-days worth) and vet records.
Since you are leaving 48 hours before the storm, you won't have to worry about hauling in horrible weather. Please do not leave 12 hours before the storm. The odds of you having to ride it out in your truck (and your horse in the trailer) are too great. And just one huge wind gust can imperil your travels. It's your call to do it 24 hours before a storm. I personally wouldn't do it because of the traffic and shelter situation, but I'm not stopping you.
Pack like you're going overnight camping or overnight horse show for this. I'm going to leave it to you to know how to pack for a trip. But remember, you could be there longer than a few days depending on damage.