For many AAHA-member practices, bomb cyclone’s bark was worse than its bite

The vicious winter storm that battered the East Coast with ice, snow, wind, and plummeting temperatures last week is gone, leaving frigid temperatures in its wake. And when we checked in with AAHA member hospitals from Maine to South Carolina to see how they came through some seriously record-breaking cold, we found that most were doing just fine.

In fact, for many, the bomb cyclone just wasn’t that big of a deal.

“We luckily have not lost power,” said Sarah Burke, practice manager at AAHA-accredited True North Veterinary Hospital in Bartlett, New Hampshire. “We’ve had to shovel quite a bit, so we’ve had to come in earlier. We’ve had cancellations on storm days.” The biggest thing she’s noticed is how the cold is affecting their patients. “We’re getting more appointments for lameness, joint soreness, and overall paw issues.” And how cold did it get? “Just this past weekend, it was ˗28 degrees Fahrenheit Saturday morning. And believe it or not, we all made it in.”

Burke added with a laugh, “People brave the cold out here, they just complain about it.”

Jamie, a receptionist at AAHA-accredited Norway Veterinary Hospital in Naples, Maine, agreed with Burke. “It’s not that bad, really.” She said it got down to ˗20 degrees Fahrenheit at night, but as she points out, they’re in Maine. “We kind of expect it.”

Further south, on Cape Cod, the weather caused some hospital closures, at least temporarily. “We had to close early last Thursday due to really extreme winds, hail, and snow. Nobody was coming in,” said Kerrie Pasquerella, office manager at AAHA-accredited All Pets Medical Center in Bourne, Massachusetts. But, she added, “It’s not as bad as I personally expected. I think everybody was anticipating that it was going to be a big situation and it was going to be way worse, but it wasn’t.” Pasquerella described it as a “moderate” winter storm. “Nothing crazy.” 

To the west, Jennifer Roy, client care team leader at AAHA-accredited Cats Limited Veterinary Hospital in West Hartford, Connecticut, said things weren’t too bad at her hospital. “We did close Thursday, the day of the big storm.” Roy said in addition to more than a foot of snow, they had 40 mile-per-hour winds. But other than that, “We’ve been very lucky.” Since the storm, she said, “It’s been business as usual, despite the cold.”

Sam Taylor, a receptionist at Animal Hospital of Millville in Millville, New Jersey, said she’s noticed a definite decrease in business. “Everybody has been cancelling because they’re scared to come out in the snow. The owners are afraid to bring in their animals.” Like many practices, they closed early on Thursday because of the big storm. But by Monday, Taylor says, things weren’t that bad. And the storm didn’t inconvenience her too much. “I have four-wheel drive,” she laughed. 

At Bees Ferry Veterinary Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina, it was a different story: the snow didn’t get that deep, maybe five inches, but that was more than enough to throw people off.

“It had us completely closed on Wednesday and Thursday,” said Marshall Liger, hospital administrator. The hospital is back to regular business hours this week, but Liger said last week’s closure—despite a relative lack of snow—is business as usual on the rare occasions that winter actually hits Charleston: “The city basically shuts down because we’re far enough south we’re not prepared for that at all. We don’t have plows or salt trucks. Our staff couldn’t get to work, but clients couldn’t get here either.”

Liger said at least one staff member went above and beyond during the storm. “We had one of our vet nurses come and move into the practice for about three days so that she could take care of the animals in the kennel.”

Liger says due to the snow, commuting was not an option for the dedicated LVT. “Fortunately, we have a shower and a futon.”

Photo credit: © iStock/ Korvit78

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