Two devastating tornadoes swept through parts of the central United States earlier this month, killing two and injuring dozens of others. Not counted among the victims, however, are the countless animals left stranded after disaster strikes.
Volunteers at humane societies and animal hospitals scoured the affected areas for animals in distress. Their goal was to treat the injured animals and reunite lost pets with their loved ones.
One group that worked around the clock was the Barron County Humane Society in Wisconsin. The group was the first animal rescue organization allowed in the trailer park in Chetek, Wisconsin, after a tornado ripped through on May 16, said Katrina Brunclik, the society's board president.
The EF3 tornado killed one person and injured 25 others. Officials say the tornado tracked 83 miles, breaking the record for the longest tornado Wisconsin had seen since records began in 1950.
"The damage was unbelievable…there’s no picture or video that’s done justice to it," Brunclik said.
Between Brunclik's organization and other local animal rescue groups, the society took in more than 50 cats and 10 dogs.
The group continues to help the victims from the storm. They connect pets to foster homes until the owners are ready to take their animals back. The group also maintains lists of pets that are still missing in the hopes of returning them to their owners.
"When you see the owners who got reunited with their fur babies, it was just amazing to see that joy," Brunclik said, her voice cracking with emotion.
"These people had lost everything. And to have that special pet back that you love and they love you, it’s just amazing," she said.
Farther south, a tornado swept through Elk City, Oklahoma, killing one person and injuring 80 more.
Two horses were severely injured in the storm. They were transported across the state to the Oklahoma State University Boren Veterinary Medical Hospital. The hospital receives animals from all over the central U.S. as part of the OSU Animal Relief Fund.
The horses, Bolt and Queen's Hero, had severe lacerations to their legs and hooves, said Dr. Mike Schoonover, assistant professor of equine surgery at OSU. While it's taking them several weeks to heal, Schoonover said they'll be sure to make a full recovery.
"We try to help not only those animals but provide their owners a service. Their life has been turned upside down by the storm," Schoonover said. "If we can take these animals off their hands for a period of time and provide the best treatment that we can, it provides them a lot of relief."
"When the owners' life is normalized...that’s when we get to interact with them, and that’s a special time, to return the animal back to them," said Schoonover.