Cows in flooded waters after Hurricane Irene, which caused damage across southeast Florida and heavy rains in the Carolinas and Virginia in October 1999.

When there’s a severe storm in the forecast, lots of people worry about flooding and power outages. Far fewer think about cows roaming loose on the highway.

“Fences go down, and so things like cattle, horses, goats, pigs, livestock, they get out,” says Sarah Bostick, an extension agent in Sarasota County, Florida. “And that can cause obviously a hazard to those animals but also to humans in that they often end up wandering in the roads including onto the interstate.”

Bostick is part of the Sarasota Agricultural Recovery Group – a team of ranchers, emergency responders, and volunteers.

They’re armed with ham radios and trained to help out with all kinds of agricultural emergencies – from rescuing escaped livestock to delivering fuel to a generator that powers irrigation at a plant nursery.

“We know exactly where in the county we will probably need to respond first and go check on first,” Bostick says. “We know where is most likely to flood first, we know where there’s animals, where there’s crops, where there’s greenhouses, where there’s orchards.”

So as extreme weather grows more common, they’re prepared to help minimize the harm to farms, ranches, and animals.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.