Texas Horses Evacuate

As Hurricane Rita begins to make landfall, evacuees are stuck in gridlock traffic. In some areas traveling a single mile can take up to four hours. And these folks are seeking shelter for their animals.

"The traffic is maddening," said Jean Cook with the Texas Racing Commission. According to her, volunteers workers from a shelter who were trying to evacuate had to turn around because the heat was to stressful for the animals to endure.

"There has been a tremendous outpouring of help from people trying to help those evacuate," Cook said. "One man even placed a sign on the side of the road telling people they could water and rest their horses there."

The Texas Animal Health Commission has post a list of hold sites willing to take in horses evacuating from the coastal areas. Holding areas include Gillespie County in Fredericksburg and Manor Downs in Manor. The list can be found at http://www.tahc.state.tx.us.

Howard Phillips, president of Manor Downs, and his staff have been working long days to prepare three of their 40-stall shipping barns for the influx of horses they could potentially receive. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials at the Travis County Expo Center, which met its capacity of 200 horse by Wednesday, sent the over flow to him, said Phillips.

"We've been running around here trying to get stalls ready," he said. "Right now we have an array of horses coming in, some of them have been traveling this way for an entire day." Horses are beginning to trickle into the track as evacuees make their way through gridlocked traffic.

Phillips added that, "I told the FEMA people that everybody who needs a place to stay, we will make room for them. If we have to fill up all 500 stalls, that's what we will do."

Phillips recommends people seeking shelter at the track bring their own bedding, feed, and hay. The track will provide water, electricity, and stabling at no charge to the evacuees. "Owners can stay with their horses in the barns, we will not have any security available, but with the things the way they are, I'm not going to stop them from staying."

The Texas Department of Transportation has been asked to contra-flow (allow traffic in opposite-bound lanes) on Interstate 45 from Houston to Buffalo, about midway between Dallas and Houston, according to a press release. This is the largest reversal of traffic in Texas history.

"The SOC (State Operating Center) says no one should be coming to Houston," said Scott Alley, Texas Department of Transportation emergency management coordinator. "Emergency traffic, such as law enforcement personnel and rescue workers, take U.S. 290 east into Houston."

About the Author

Chad Mendell

Chad Mendell is the former Managing Editor for TheHorse.com .

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