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Hurricane Cowboys rescue abandoned SC horses from flooding in aftermath of Florence

Floodwater fails to recede in Conway, buildings remain submerged

Floodwater from Hurricane Florence has persisted in the town of Conway, S.C. The Waccamaw River was three feet above its previous flood record set by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and is expected to rise another foot, cresting at 22 feet.
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Floodwater from Hurricane Florence has persisted in the town of Conway, S.C. The Waccamaw River was three feet above its previous flood record set by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and is expected to rise another foot, cresting at 22 feet.

This isn’t his first rodeo.

Patrick Mckann got the “Hurricane Cowboy” moniker for the aid he provided in Texas last year in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Now the Virginia resident and his team are at work again, trying to help out in flood-ravaged areas of the Carolinas following the devastation of Hurricane Florence.

The Hurricane Cowboys goal is to go to areas hit hard by these deadly storms, and rescue animals in harm’s way that otherwise could be killed.

“Everybody is good with cats and dogs, and we’ll help them too. But we deal with large livestock — horses, cattle, pigs,” the 42-year-old Mckann told The State. “There’s a lot to do in South Carolina.”

The former bull rider, rodeo cowboy and jockey currently works as a horse trainer among other jobs. His background provides him expertise in dealing with, and rescuing horses and livestock. When he saw what was happening during Hurricane Harvey, and looked at his pick-up truck and horse trailer, he said this is ”equipment we can use to help.”

After some limited work in Pender County, North Carolina, the all-volunteer team of Hurricane Cowboys have their hands full in South Carolina.

So far, Mckann said they have rescued horses, donkeys, chickens, dogs and cats, while also providing emergency transportation to people as well.

“We’ve been in Conway a lot the last two days,” Mckann said. “The water is steadily rising. It’s really bad down here.”

What the Hurricane Cowboys do is head into the waters with equipment to help the animals. Among the gear is Mckann’s 24-foot aluminum trailer, a 15-foot air boat brought up from Florida by another member of the team, a canoe, a flat-bottom boat that was just donated to them, along with chainsaws, lariats, chest waders, gloves and boots.

In the trailer is hay and food for pets and larger animals, according to Mckann. The Hurricane Cowboys used that to house three horses they rescued in Horry County on Monday.

After taking the boat, Mckann said he and Travis Holstein used their waders to get through waters that were at least 3-feet deep before they reached the two black walking horses and an American Saddlebred.

After retracing their steps with the horses, that Mckann said were often unsure and difficult, they got back to the trailer where they continued to feed them before taking them to animal control.

The Conway Riverwalk slowly floods from the Waccamaw River on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018.

Tuesday in Conway, Mckann reported the Hurricane Cowboys day started off with a request to rescue chickens from an evacuated residence.

After cleaning out one coop, he said the team realized there were locks on the other two coops. They were not given permission to break the locks by law enforcement and Mckann said they made the difficult decision to leave the chickens inside, where they would likely die.

“I know they’re just chickens, but I felt bad,” Mckann said. “No animal, nobody deserves to die.”

After that, Mckann said they learned of an older couple that refused to leave their property unless their quarter horses were evacuated. Located off a flooded section of the Pee Dee Highway, Mckann said it was difficult to get to, and even more challenging to return from with the horses who were not cooperative.

While riding one horse, and leading another by it’s reins, Mckann said one horse bucked and they all went under the water.

“I got baptized,” Mckann said of being thrown from the horse. “You have to have a sense of humor, or this will drive you crazy.”

By nighttime, the horse had been safely relocated to a “high-ground pasture,” where they were enjoying some food, Mckann said.

The Hurricane Cowboys were working again Wednesday, and Mckann said the current plan is to stay in South Carolina until Sunday. But if he feels their help is still needed, they will stick around longer.

“It’s bad, but this is who we are and what cowboys do. We will be here until it’s over,” Mckann said.

Because he works as a horse trainer, auctioneer and more in the Richmond area, Mckann said he is able to take the time to do the Hurricane Cowboys’ work.

“Job or no job, this job needs to be done,” said Mckann, who also said he has already expanded his operation since Hurricane Harvey and would like to see it grow before responding to help for the next natural disaster.

When he does leave, he said he might go to Puerto Rico, where the impact of 2017’s Hurricane Maria is still being dealt with. There, Mckann said he would help round up and vaccinate horses.

He has set up a GoFundMe page to help facilitate the growth of the Hurricane Cowboys. The goal has been set at $10,000, which will be used for a list of supplies. More than $3,000 had been donated as of Wednesday afternoon.

While the Hurricane Cowboys are doing what they can to save lives, Mckann said he’s aware they are also putting theirs on the line with this rescue work. He cited powerful water, bacteria and debris in the water, along with wildlife that he has recently encountered like water moccasins, cottonmouth snakes and the fire ants that stung him.

“I hear there are alligators down here,” Mckann said. “We try to make sure we’re as safe as possible, but things can go wrong.”

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