April 19 2016 FLOOD STORY
Endurance Friends & Family, (written by Russell Betts as told to him on the phone)
As many of you have heard there was a catastrophic flood in the Houston area. After 42 years of living on Cypress Creek, one feels you sort of know it. The weather had predicted 4 to possibly 9 inches per day, possibly for 3 days. Darolyn always watches the weather carefully as our rainy weather hampers the daily trail ride business. She was aware that Monday and Tuesday could be wet She knows when to initially prepare, tying lawn furniture down, picking up loose buckets, water troughs, etc. Get all vehicles off property and up on higher frontage road. Next get halters on horses, next move horses to high South side of the property. If the water keeps coming up, they even know when they have about 30 min. to get the last vehicle out, before the low spot in the road prevents going out. 45 Trillion gallons of water fell from the sky that nite. Almost all of it 10, to 40 miles west of us on the Cypress Creek Watershed. We only had 10 inches here, which we could normally handle, but couple that with the 15-17 inches back west, and the Flood gates being conservatively open on downstream rivers…. What happened is the fastest rising flood water that Harris County has ever experienced. Thus the 8 human deaths and probably more when all the water goes down. They are still boating in to CT after 4 days. Below is a fairly succinct outline of April 18.
Cypress Trails does have plans for the evacuation of horses. In 2015 there were 2 evacuations which took place, which in the end were not required after all. Evac is discussed with staff on a regular basis.
Mon 18th April.
12 am to 2am - Darolyn had been regularly checking the internet flood gauges and rainfall sites from midnight onwards. Up until 2am everything was still ok with the levels the river was at about 55'. 12 ft. Over normal.
3am - 4" of rain fell here, the river incredibly rose to about 62' at this point, I had to make a quick decision if I was going to move horses or vehicles. I chose horses
3:30 AM The horses were moved out of the Arena Paddock to stalls in the House/Barn, & North pasture closest to the creek, to House/Barn (higher ground). Horses had just been through this terrific storm, and skittish. So Darolyn saddled up and rode into N. pasture to collect the horses. They followed her into the barn like lambs, but when they were being collected with halters, the horses spooked and broke out of the barn. Running into the flood water on the south side, the strong current scattered the herd. Several horses ran into the Arena, got tangled in the cable fencing as the current pushed them into it.
Realize we had walked easily around this arena about 20 min. before catching the horses that lived there. Now it was a struggle to walk in it. These are some of the horses later seen on the TV. Darolyn and an employee, Hoku, swam to the Arena to rescue horses, but they were only just able to swim there. Hoku, sitting on a fence, held the horse, Amber's head above water until the water got a foot higher and she was able to disentangle herself from the fencing she had gotten in. She is fine. Neither of us could buck the current to get back to the Barn/House. They had on T-shirts and gym shorts… 2.5 hours sitting in cold flood water that, as it grew higher was trying to tug our cloths off. Talk about DijaVu. This was almost exactly the same place Darolyn was back in 2001 when she swam in to save a couple of horses left at the house when they were at the TETRA convention.
5 am – to the west, upon the Cypress Creek watershed, 13 to 17"s had fallen. Another 4"s fell , the river now at 65' (nearly 2' above the river bank). My house which is on pilings, was ok, but water was rising in the stalls and tack rooms. The law enforcement arrived with rescue boats, their priority was to rescue people and not horses. Darolyn and Hoku were rescued from the Arena about 8 am, where they had been stuck after swimming there 2.5 hours earlier. The TV pictures of horses stuck in the floods now came from around this time. No horses were tied to any fences or poles but some horses were entangled in cable fences now underwater. (All but one got out.) There was no barbwire as stated in some account.
7 AM There were no horses in the single story barn which can be seen with just its roof above the water in the news coverage. All these horses had evacuated themselves early on. Confusion on this occurred because there is what is call a "barn" under Darolyn's house,
11am - the river now 6' above its banks, volunteers now start to help rescue horses from the south pastures (which was the high ground) of the flooded Cypress Trails. Justin Nelzen, Devan Horn, Mark Jensen and many others contributed to heroic rescues throughout the day as they snagged horses out of the currents and got them to safety. Still a fairly large herd on the edge of the South pasture. Fairly restless, and testing the current they moved around quite a bit.
2: PM Kelly, Matt, and Cody in chest deep water, and Darolyn in a boat, pushed the horses to the west off the property, where Corrie Patrick, Tracy Taylor, and Krista Mohn picked up the 20 plus horses and pushed them through nearby woods to the neighbors. Unfortunately a groupe of 6 or 7 horses broke away from being almost contained at the neighbors ranch and returned to the farm. When they reached their home trails and made their way to the house/barn, two split off for the evacuation area on the frontage road and were caught, two headed toward the barn, and two ended up getting swept into the creek. Almost to safety, Jolly Roger, one of the barn direction horses failed to go in the barn and, he too, was swept in the creek when he got too near the edge. Devan Horn ended up seeing him caught in bank brush and went in the creek and guided him to safety. The other two are two of the missing ones. Btw air boats are barely strong enough to negotiate the worst current. The motor boast had to stay well clear of the current between the arena and the house.
4 PM Later in the day the final 12-14 horses in the house/barn were swum to safety with the aid of a power boat and rider for guiding. All horses were guided to the South pasture edge where the water was shallow enough for them to walk, and then to the access road and a waiting trailer.
The massive amounts of rain in the west water shed (12"-17") contributed to the rapid rise in the river level, as well as water released from the Conroe dam prior to this event, There have only been 2 horses lost to flooding at Cypress Trails back in 2001, 15 yrs ago. No horses were tied up and left in the flood water to drown. This reporting was probably due to the sight of horses tangled in fencing and unable to move.
As of posting there is 1 27 yr old mare that is known to have died, having got trapped in the cable fencing, and 4 other horses are currently being actively searched for. The remainder of the horses were moved to evacuation pastures near the George Bush Airport on Tuesday, and onto friend’s ranches after a brief respite at my neighbor’s ranch.
The dramatic videos of horses lurching in the water was them hitting fence lines that an observer could not see. Brave people were bucking law enforcement to make these rescues. Darolyn was threatened with arrest at least 20 times for any participation in the water. Everything would have gone much smoother, and quicker if the sheriffs had just backed off a bit.
6 PM Apr 18 The river level is still at about 5’ above the banks and access to the ranch house is by boat only. AND there are two ponies on the upper deck of Darolyn's house being fed regularly, along with 5 dogs of Darolyn’s and 3 of friends.
All horses are in safe and comfortable facilities. Any horses requiring doctoring or meds are either at the vets, or in a facility next door to the vet for observation. One horse was hospitalized due to a pastern puncture.
April 20 5 AM The creek went back up another foot and hopefully this will be the end to the crest as at this time, we had only lost one small employee car, and one old farm truck, But no… at around 1 PM the Creek went up to 70 feet, and all the vehicles and 5 trailers drown including the L.Q.
Darolyn wishes to thank everyone for all their help and support, if you watch any of the videos you will understand why. There was a huge crowd of friends and strangers.
Russell Betts for Cypress Trails.
Btw... Will avoid another long story here, but there are really nasty people that are spreading incredible lies and exaggerations... Like “Darolyn was eating doughnuts while her horses drown”, in actuality, she had one as she came off the boat from being rescued from the 2.5 hour sit in the water. That was her meal for the day. They are launching a petition to take her down, based on many falsehoods of the day. If you care too, read the nice stuff on her FB… oh but wait, the “Haters” have even commandeered the FB. They have created 3-4 other FBs in my Cypress Trails name and are plastering the negative stuff. So not even sure you can get up on the right one. Hopefully you have as much information as you need. Call or e me other questions if you like. Thanks in advance for your support, and thanks to everyone that helped on the rescue operation.