By Sophia Ricco
Thunder crashed and lightning lit up the night sky when a colossal storm hit the Island on July 17. The storm - the aftermath of Tropical Storm Barry - hit Little Shelter Animal Rescue particularly hard.
A lightning strike caused massive damages to an electrical control panel and destroyed a memorial, executive director David Ceely said. Around 10:30 p.m., two kennel workers were taking care of the dogs when they heard a loud crash.
“It came out of nowhere, the sky just opened up and there was this huge explosion, the sky just lit up like it was daylight,” dog handler George Phillips said.
Venturing outside to investigate, they smelled smoke in the air and discovered lightning had struck a tree. The tree’s bark was burned off, as if the lightning skimmed it “like a cheese grater.” A memorial fountain for Little Shelter’s former vice president Ruth Weiss was shattered by the force. Pieces of the fountain were scattered around the vicinity.
“Without a doubt we will get the memorial fountain replaced,” Ceely said. “It was outside of our cattery, and the cats loved to sit there and watch the birds that would play in the fountain. It was a big part of the shelter’s history.”
Catastrophe continued as Little Shelter realized the phone, internet, A/C and alarm system were not functioning. The shelter’s electrical control panel had been struck and it blew, ruining the systems it was connected to.
“The control panel in the basement was completely fried,” Ceely said. “There were sockets that had soot coming out of them. It was burned, there were char marks behind some of the outlets in the cattery.”
The surge destroyed the shelter’s industrial air conditioning unit that keeps the cattery and one of the kennels coool. Little Shelter staff took measures to keep the animals cool, turning lights off during daytime and increasing the frequency of cold water changes. They have received an outpouring of support, with many community members donating portable and window air conditioners.
“Our buildings our old, so it’s important to keep the animals protected from heat or cold,” Ceely said. “Temperature control is important because you want to keep them comfortable and their stay at the shelter the best that it can be. When you lose an air conditioner of that magnitude during a heat wave, it’s pretty scary.”
Ceely estimates repairs will cost $30,000. The phone system control panel and central alarm station are over $1,000 to replace, and the air conditioning unit was valued at $20,000. The shelter will take steps to prevent a repeat of the incident, and is considering a supporter’s suggestion to place copper lightning rods nearby.
“As we do these repairs, we will see if there’s any upgrades that might be needed and would help protect from this,” Ceely said.
Little Shelter is accepting donations to aid this effort at 33 Warner Rd, Huntington and online at littleshelter.org.