North Dakota man rescues animals from Hurricane Florence

MINOT, N.D. - As Tropical Storm Michael continues to impact the east coast, Keith Benning from Turtle Mountain Animal Rescue reflects on the destruction he witnessed while resucing stranded and abandoned animals during Hurricane Florence just weeks ago.

With word of Hurricane Florence being one of the most devastating hurricane in recent years, one North Dakotan knew he had to go help.

"This is probably the most significant storm event of our life time,” said Frank Rush, Emerald Isle town manager. “Worst storm the area has seen since Hurricane Hazel in 1954.”

“These orders are not given lightly. They are based on experienced emergency response experts,” said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper.

When a natural disaster hits, most people head out of Mother Nature's way. However, some like Keith Benning, know they need to go help.

"The poorer areas that are effected by the hurricane a lot of times get ignored by the bigger agencies, so we knew there would be a demand down there and we had the skills to go and be able to help,” said Keith Benning, founder or Turtle Mountain Animal Rescue.

Benning rescues stray animals in North Dakota. After helping during Hurricane Harvey, he knew more than just humans would need help.

"Complete and utter devastation where we were at. We stayed in Pender County the whole time. There were houses that water was a foot below the gutters. A lot of animals that were on porches, there were very few that were still inside houses. Basically everything tried to find high ground,” said Benning.

Benning and his team found dogs on cars and tables, but the biggest challenge they faced was the stranded livestock.

"There was no high ground around, except for a quarter mile. And the problem was the horses wouldn't swim to it. One of the horse was blind. Alpacas, they don't do really well in water. It was a mess,” said Benning.

The team successfully rescued the horses and 14 alpacas, and in doing so, put their own lives at risk.

"There was an electronic gate that we had to get open to be able to get though. Ended up getting in the water and then having to disassemble it with a wrench underwater. So you would take a deep breath go under start unscrewing things and when you ran out of air pop up and do it again,” said Benning.

Benning says it's not about being a hero, it's about doing the right thing.

"It's being a good human. If you have the ability to something, if you have a skill set that you can use for something like that, I guess I kind of consider it a responsibility to try and do my part to help. You know, people have lost everything and you have animals in danger,” said Benning.

The team rescued 45 animals in North Carolina, and Benning says this won't be the last time he and his team help during a natural disaster.

Benning says he wants to continue rescuing animals but he needs better equipment. He says all they had for Harvey and Florence were canoes and paddle boards. That's why there's a go fund me page set up to help fund a boat for future rescues.

Here is the link for the go fund me: https://www.gofundme.com/cjufkv-hurricane-rescue-boat