As the rescuer searched the flooded streets, he couldn’t mistake the sounds. Barking and howling echoed across thigh-high water – calls for help from victims with no voices. He pushed through the deluge to follow the sounds – and then his eyes noticed movement behind a locked cage.
The storm in question is September 2018’s Hurricane Florence, which hit North and South Carolina. Florence actually formed off African shores but built up strength during its progress across the Atlantic Ocean. And by September 5, the storm had grown into a fully fledged hurricane.
Florence wasn’t just any old storm, either; it climbed up the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale to reach category four. This not only classified Florence as a major hurricane, but also as the first of its kind to be seen in the Atlantic in 2018.
At its strongest, Florence was throwing out 130mph winds, although that wasn’t the only threat the storm presented. It brought heavy rainfalls with it as well, devastating the Carolinas with ground floods. Florence eventually resulted in the deaths of 40 people across the state.
Alongside those tragic human deaths, the animal population of the Carolinas also suffered casualties. As a consequence of the flooding, livestock were among the most affected animals. They were either unable to escape the rising waters and drowned or were stranded without food and starved.
According to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, the floods claimed the lives of more than 5,000 pigs. In addition, a further 3.4 million turkeys and chickens were lost to the storm. Unfortunately, this isn’t even particularly unusual during hurricane season; storms take the lives of both wild and domestic animals indiscriminately.
Companion animals are also potential storm victims. Indeed, it’s not unknown for cat or dog owners to leave their pets in their rush to escape a natural disaster. However, experience with storms seems to have educated people about how deadly hurricanes can be to our furfriends.
Because of this, whenever a hurricane hits, animal lovers are always on the lookout for potential voiceless victims. Rescuers were needed for both animals and humans alike when Florence arrived. And Leland in North Carolina experienced some particularly unforgiving floodwaters as a consequence of the storm.
To be more specific, the waters reached heights of 10 feet in Leland, which residents later described as “unprecedented flooding” according to CNBC. Rising waters assaulted both residential and business properties alike, causing rescuers to evacuate locals in boats. But some inhabitants weren’t so lucky.
Take the inhabitants that Marcus DiPaola and his fellow rescuer found, for instance. DiPaola is a reporter who was in the area with rescue volunteers looking for survivors of the hurricane. He was with Ryan Nichols when they discovered a group of trapped storm victims.
Ryan Nichols isn’t from North Carolina; he’s actually a resident of Longview, Texas. He was with DiPaola in Leland as a volunteer on September 16, 2018, to help with rescue efforts when the pair heard a noise. It was coming from a residential property that had been abandoned when its owners fled the storm.
But their house wasn’t the only thing that the retreating owners left behind, as DiPaola and Nichols found out. The rescuers followed the noises and, when the pair got closer, identified the sounds as howling. The disturbance eventually led to them to its source: a locked cage.
Inside the cage, the rescuers found six dogs left by their owners in the rising waters. It’s unclear whether the animals’ humans didn’t have enough room or time to evacuate their pets, or if the dogs were just forgotten. Either way, the results were the same.
That’s to say, the dog’s owners had left them locked in a cage. As a result, the animals had no way to escape the deluge. All they could do was bark, howl and whimper for help. And fortunately, DiPaola and Nichols answered their calls.
DiPaola captured the rescue on camera and uploaded the footage to Twitter that same day. It shows Nichols wading through the thigh-high waters to the dogs as they howl for help from their cage. Nichols’s new canine friends look ecstatic to see him.
The dogs are clearly happy that the volunteer is opening the door – indeed, they can’t stop wagging their tails. Then, as soon as Nichols gets the cage open, DiPaola calls them out. They need little encouragement, though, as they’re already squeezing though the gate.
DiPaola encourages the dogs as he leads them through the floods in footage that further highlights the animals’ plight. The water’s surface is almost as high as the dogs are tall. As a result, they have to doggy paddle their way to freedom, with their rescuers hot on their heels.
The video ends with the dogs paddling through progressively shallower waters until they reach the shore. And the footage subsequently went viral on social media, with DiPaola’s video alone receiving more than eight million views. In addition, it’s been retweeted some 100,000 times and liked by over 300,000 people.
It would appear that the volunteers reached the dogs just in time, too, as DiPaola explained on Twitter. “We got them out,” he wrote. “But by the time we left, the water was so high that they would have drowned.”
A social media user named Kristine Schachinge added some useful advice. She tweeted, “If you live in a water prone or flood area get life jackets for your pets in case you have to evacuate because of rising water.” And DiPaola himself also had one final message. “Bring your pets with you,” he wrote.