Earlier this week an earthquake had news organizations and social media feeds abuzz. Now it's a Category 2 hurricane named Irene, spinning ominously over the Atlantic and "taking aim at the East Coast of the United States," according to this morning's update from the National Weather Service. More than ever I'm reminded of the importance of having a plan for either getting out safely or hunkering down. Hurricane Irene approaches East Coast

When reporting on the devastation of Hurricane Katrina a few years ago in coastal Louisiana, I stepped over far-flung halters and flat-backed buckets, saw juxtaposed debris (a casket at the door of a church, for example), and spotted the bodies of horses that had become trapped in stalls or debris and drowned during the storm surge or later flooding. The heartache of affected horse owners, rescue teams, veterinarians, and aid workers in the weeks and months following Katrina's destruction in both Louisiana and Mississippi was so strong I felt I could almost touch it. But so was their determination to help one another, recover, and prepare better for next time: Many strong contingency plans and programs were born out of that disaster, and with each approaching storm more and more horse owners are being proactive about disaster planning. 

Here's how TheHorse.com can help you prepare for hurricanes and other disasters.

We ran an update yesterday with interviews from various people in the industry focused on disaster planning and response. We'll have our eye on Irene and our ear to the ground for updates, although we're hoping that the storm will not impact horse owners too badly. E-mail our news editor, Erica, with any leads on horse people impacted by Irene; and e-mail our photo/newsletter editor, Megan, with any storm images (including horses) you may capture.

Elsewhere online, the American Association of Equine Practitioners has a very thorough page of disaster resources, and the American Veterinary Medical Association has a list of animal disaster plans and resources by state.

Also, there's a Facebook community page called Horse Evacuations East, a grassroots effort to connect evacuating horse owners who need shelter with other owners who are offering shelter. "Like" them on Facebook and then go to the "Events" section in the left column. There you'll find information for the various regions.

Best of luck from The Horse to everyone in Irene's path.

As a horse owner, what steps have you taken to prepare for natural disasters?