It’s time to look back on 2018! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2018 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.
By far the most memorable moment of 2018 was the day of the ice storm on November 15th. I have worked at the Center through forest fires and building fires and earthquakes, but the day the trees were falling on the building and enclosures stands out in my mind.
My storm experience started that day when my computer screen suddenly went black while working on the presentation I was scheduled to give at our Call of the Wild Conference in just two days. Although the building was dark, luckily there was enough light from the window to start reading some articles I had been saving for when things slowed down after the conference. Just when I was settling into a moment of quiet reading, the building became very busy with people rushing by the office grabbing gloves and nets. I joined in to see what was happening and what I could help with and saw the tree down, crushing Maggie the Peregrine Falcons’s enclosure. Within a few seconds, I then heard more cracking and leaves rustling as a tree fell in the bear complex. Then off in the distance -- more cracking.
Very quickly, the decision was made to bring in all of our education ambassadors. All staff jumped into action with Outreach staff going to get the birds and the rest of the staff grabbing and preparing crates to house them in. As trees continued to fall around us, we started to bring in many of the patients that were housed outside as well. Then while standing in the animal kitchen talking with some of our students, a large tree fell on the roof and windows above us. We decided to send the students home for their safety and they just made it out in time before another large tree fell across blocking our driveway.
Caroline (one of our front-desk coordinators) and I grabbed the only tools available to us, a tiny hand saw and branch clippers, and went down to remove what we could of the tree so staff would not be trapped at the Center. While hacking and clipping away branches, we continued to hear and see trees falling all around and the traffic backing up on the street in front of the Center as trees fell blocking the road as well. Luckily, all patients and ambassadors were unharmed and all staff made it home safely.
We survived the storm due to the quick and calm response by staff and students – but also due to the outpouring of support from our fellow rehab community. Many rehabbers around us immediately accepted some of our patients, rehabbers acted as transporters and even released some of our patients for us so we could focus on what needed to be done at the Center. Although we did have to cancel the first day of the conference due to widespread power outages, we managed to pull off the second two days, despite the power still being out at the Center. I was warmed by the attendees’ positive attitudes at the conference and gratitude that we still held classes.
At the time of year when we all tend to reflect on the past year, and look forward to the future, I feel so fortunate to be a part of such a dedicated staff and supportive wildlife rehabilitation community and look forward to meeting the challenges that lie ahead, just hopefully not another tree-pocalypse!