Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, seen in 'Tiger King' series, preps for Hurricane Ian
TAMPA - The Big Cat Rescue in Tampa is preparing for the impending landfall of Hurricane Ian along the Florida Gulf Coast.
Carole Baskin, the CEO of rescue who was thrust in the national spotlight by the 2020 Netflix series "Tiger King," has been updating preparations on Facebook.
"And it begins," Baskins said in a post Monday evening as rainfall could be heard in the background. "Hurricane Ian, we are ready for you."
Baskin says she and many of her volunteers spent Monday filling and stacking sandbags at the sanctuary ahead of the powerful hurricane.
"I want to give a huge shot out to everybody at Big Cat Rescue who has been filling sandbags, and picking up sticks, and chain-sawing away limbs, and covering the windows," Baskin said.
The team also spent the past few days boarding up the various structures on the property, including the gift shop where some will stay to ensure the cats are safe riding out the storm. One video shows volunteers hauling a stack of mattresses the crew will use to sleep on.
Baskin says her team will be checking on the cats and cages hourly during the storm. They are expecting, depending on the track of the storm, to get 30 hours of tropical storm-force winds and possibly 10 hours of hurricane-force winds. A heavy-duty four-wheel-drive SUV will be used to make the rounds of the property to make sure fences are up, and the cats are safe.
One of the other biggest concerns is ensuring their food preparations continues uninterrupted. Baskin showed off a massive propane tank that will be used to fuel a generator to make sure the cats' food is properly stores. Volunteers also reinforced portions of the structure of the food prep building.
"We have to keep food prep safe because you got to feed the cats no matter what the weather looks like," Baskin said.
Baskin says regardless of the storm, the cats will need to get the same level of care as any other day.
Other generators on the property are also being fueled up and chainsaws are being ready with plenty of extra fuel. The high winds are likely to down some of the trees on the property and possibly cut power.
Another concern is flooding with several inches expected to fall over multiple hours. They have hooked pumps up to generators in hopes of mitigating the worst of it.
Photos shared on Facebook show limbs, debris, and other loose items being rounded up and secured.
Ian is expected to start impacting the area overnight Tuesday evening with the strongest portion of the storm expected to move through on Wednesday.
"Please continue to send paw-sitive thoughts and prayers for all of Tampa, the interns, staff, volunteers and cats at Big Cat Rescue!" one post reads.
The crew also spent the past few days on securing their own homes, most of which are under mandatory evacuation orders and finding shelter for their pets.