The Greater Houston Area is about to get hit with a Tropical depression/storm Hurricane, whatever. This ain’t my first rodeo. Since graduating from college, I have been through hurricane Ike, a major barn flood, area floods, and helped with a wildfire.
Major Natural Disaster #1: Many moons ago, shortly after I bought Emma hurricane Ike hit Houston. I had only been in Houston just over 2 years. I loaded the dogs, cat, Emma, and even my pet fish up and “evacuated” I even had my boyfriend who became Mr. Equestrian Engineer a year later. We went about 20 miles, got sick of the traffic, I took Emma to my trainer’s house a bit further out than the boarding stable I was at, and went back to the rent house. We “Hunkered Down”. The storm hit my house around 2am, I vaguely remember waking up hearing it, rolling over and going back to sleep. The wind was nuts, the rain was more nuts and by about 10am, it was calm and quiet. And MUGGY. Luckily the wind and rain had cooled things off but it was wet everywhere and the humidity was insane.
Emma was fine at the trainers, no worse for wear. We were without power for a few days, since the stove was electric, we tried heating Lil’ Smokies over a tea light candle. No it was not good, it was quite terrible. At that point we reloaded everyone in the car and went to my parents 2.5 hrs. away. They had food, power, and best of all Air Conditioning. A/C might not seem like a big deal if you don’t live in the south but when its 85-90 degrees at night and 98% humidity, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, I took my pet fish to my parents along with the dog and cat. We were lucky, we had power back within a couple of days, some people around us were without power for 2 weeks, including the houses across the street. Power grids are really odd that way. Overall, not too much damage was sustained, some water leaked on the floor of the rent house and apparently there was a leak in the tub because we filled it twice and it emptied within an hour. “Sounds like you were in a super awesome rent house.” Yeah it was a shit hole, but it was cheap. My office was on partial power for 2 weeks, I actually wore a dress to work because it was so warm, normally I am freezing because places here insist that the A/C should be set on 71-73 degrees. The boarding barn had a section of roof peel up but was fully repaired within days, Emma came back after about a week.
For those wondering about offshore oilfield work in a hurricane, well there is none. They close down the platforms and rigs and bring everyone to land. All of the boats that I worked on at the time would move somewhere out of the path of the hurricane “run from the storm” as we call it.
Major natural disaster #2: Luckily I was not directly affected by this one but since I had a trailer, I was on call to help. Wildfires broke out north of where I lived, very near my trainer’s house, the same house that Emma stuck out the Hurricane. Within 8 hours she managed, with help, to evacuate about 30 horses, 19 dogs, a few cats and whatever else they could grab. Luckily our local Eventing Venue Pine Hill opened their gates and stalls for my trainer and another misplaced friend. They both had RVs they could live in for weeks while the fires raged on. When I went to help evacuate I had to take numerous back roads and turn around a few times due to closed roads. The ash carried as much as 20 miles and the clouds of smoke were incredible.
Major Natural Disaster #3: It was my 3oth birthday, and the boarding barn flooded, the barn my horses were in was waist deep, some of the other barns on the property were chest deep. I had Emma and Truman at this point. This was seriously stressful.
A few things I learned
- When we started to tow the trailer out of the water, it floated, literally lifted up off the ground and started floating away. I had to jump off the tractor and hook the chains to the tractor to keep it from floating off. So yes, a 4,000lb. trailer can float, and yes, it had water in it.
- Hunks of metal will get carried away in moving water, I dropped the top half of my trailer lock and it was gone.
- As it turns out, a plastic trash can full to the top with pellets will float, and you can float it out of the flood.
- If your horse will let you, put your saddles on your horses and they can carry the saddles out of the flood for you.
- Rubber boots will rub your legs raw when you are walking in water
- Snakes can swim but not all of them like to and they will curl up on the latch to your shavings room
- Fire ants create floating islands of death as they band together.
- It is possible to find a dead fish in your tack room
- It takes a lot of bleach to get the swamp smell out of your trailer
- After being in a flood, you need to get your trailer bearings repacked and greased
- Some horses think playing in water is fun, some do not.
- If you have a horse like Emma, with a strong flight instinct, put a stud chain on before taking them out of the stall. Your horse can still move faster than you in water and you look like a dork trying to run in water. I was actually smart and put the chain on her before getting her out.
- A tractor bucket will hold a lot of saddles and tack so you can empty your tack locker out, you just may have to wait until people are done with it.
- Rats can get as big as cats, we saw a dead one at the track that was huge.
- If you live in a known flood area, have a place on call to evacuate to
- Call friends with trailers so they can help you get horses out, keep a phone cable in your car for when your phone battery dies. If you have time and a trailer, donate both to help out, you never know when you may need help.
- Keep buckets in your trailer, always, my little 2 horse trailer was able to provide 4 regular buckets and 1-2 small buckets.
- Keep fungus solution on hand
- Don’t store a bunch of stuff in your tack locker, keep it neat and tidy. I had a plastic trunk with my blankets, I had a lot of laundry to do. Same goes with your trailer.
- Put all tack on racks and hooks. I was lucky all of my saddles were on racks and tack on hooks, another person’s saddle was on the floor, it got completely soaked.
- Rubber mats in stalls makes clean out after a flood a whole lot easier.
- Having a preparedness plan in place is the best/easiest way to handle these situations, but if you don’t, Rule #1: Don’t Panic! Rule #2: Don’t Panic! Rule #3: Take a deep breath, reset your brain, then begin to think logically Rule #4: If you are failing at Rule #3, call someone who can think logically.
Of course this happened in the evening and by the time the horses got to the race track it was about 8pm, so no place was open to get shavings or hay. We also didn’t have enough buckets for everyone, we were able to scrounge and ensure everyone had water for the night. Luckily by the next morning, hay, shavings and supplies were delivered. There is nothing worse than having to leave a horse with no hay, and no shavings after coming in from a flood, but at least they were dry.
It took a few days for the water to fully recede, then the clean-up had to begin. It took me 4 hours to clean my 2 horse trailer, the hardest part was the carpet in the tack room, I would put bleach and water down and then vacuum it out with a shop vac. I cleaned all of my tack to prevent mold, I took most of it the night of the flood. I had some shipping boots that were left behind and a few sheets/blankets and saddle pads, I threw the boots away as they were old and weren’t used, the rest I had to wash. There were like 10 loads of laundry that had to be washed twice to get all the gross out.
A final “fun” side effect from this was that Emma ended up covered in fungus, all kinds and types. I invested heavily in Zephyr’s Garden fungus spray, it took a month or so to get that cleared up.
“It won’t flood again, that was just one odd event.” One thing I have learned in my years of living in Houston, if it floods once, it will flood again. My guys did not go back to that stable, we moved to a different barn for a year and then moved out to our house.
Major Natural Disaster #4: You guessed it, more flooding. This was just last year so 4 years after the last flood event. We got 16″ of rain overnight. Houston is flat flat flat, the only elevation we have is highway overpasses. So there isn’t a whole lot of place for 16″ of rain to go, so Houston had major flooding. Our house was high and dry, the barn was dry, the pastures were a bit sloppy and boggy in the low areas. I had trouble getting my trailer out of the barnyard and we had to use the tractor to get it out. That barn that flooded on my birthday, flooded again.
Major Natural Disaster #5: Surprise, more flooding. One month after the last flooding, we got another 16″ of rain overnight. The roads to get to my house were impassable for about 12 hours, I missed out on work, the north gets snow days, we get flood days. A high school not too far from us had water in it, my office had water in the first floor, houses that had flooded a month earlier were flooded again, people died. The pastures, barnyard, and backyard had standing water everywhere. The horses were fine. I got smart and put the trailer in the barn driveway where it’s hard so I could get it in and out. That barn from disaster #3 flooded again and now is closed down.
So will this storm be Major Natural Disaster #6? Probably not, it is usually a bunch of hype. If it is a Disaster, then so be it, I will be prepared, as always. I have my first aid kit at the ready, we have 3 water troughs that hold 100 gallons each in the pastures and a few up at the house that hold 50 gallons, we have hay in the hay barn and a round bale. I have enough feed to get me through the next 2 weeks and I will make sure I can get the trailer out. I have Zephyr’s garden thrush spray and fungus spray at the ready for any issues that may arise.
Do you live “prepared” or are you the last minute type?