Category 2 Hurricane Ike is long gone but has left agriculture in Jefferson and Chambers counties devastated, according to eyewitness reports from Texas Farm Bureau’s public relations team.
According to TFB staff writer Bobby Horecka, who accompanied TFB Video Director Ed Wolff on a trek to the area, countless cattle have been killed and thousands of others endangered.
Three days after Ike hit, emergency and relief help began arriving.
Horecka and Wolff arrived in Liberty at about 2 p.m. Monday. The last 25 miles of their journey to Anahuac took nearly two hours to complete.
“The traffic in every town you came to was backed up,” said Horecka. “The traffic control system, lights and signs were all down, and so it was slow going.”
Arriving in Anahuac, the team met up with TFB Chambers County AgriLife Extension agent Tyler Fitzgerald. This 22-year-old agent—fairly new to the job—helped set up a command center and coordinated relief efforts for livestock until other agents arrived to help Monday evening.
“I talked to his father and he told me Tyler lost his home in the storm,” said Horecka. “Still, he insisted on working the relief effort because he knew he had ranchers with cattle out there that needed help. This is the kind of steadfast commitment we saw in all those working to help their neighbors.”
Horecka and Wolff spent Monday evening unloading relief trucks, and delivering cubes and water troughs along road sides—the only dry land around. Local fire departments used their equipment to fill troughs with fresh water. It was a slow process because tanker trucks carried only enough water to fill two troughs. And their water source was 30 miles away.
“Talking with producers on roadsides, we heard some cattle were three to four miles from their pastures,” said Horecka. “The fences are gone and many of the cattle had been swept away. What the high winds didn’t claim, the surge waters did.”
On Tuesday morning, more help and supplies arrived. About 300 bales were distributed. Construction equipment was utilized to reach cattle isolated by flood waters and stranded on islands, said Horecka.
The delivery of local water to thirsty cattle was called off by local officials Tuesday afternoon because freshwater supplies were dwindling. With no power and uncertainties abounding regarding the quality of remaining water, the authorities prioritized human needs and felt they couldn’t risk what little remained on cattle.
“With counts of up to 20,000 cattle affected, yesterday’s donations were only a start at taking care of the animals’ needs for a limited time,” said Horecka. “It could take weeks before all the cattle are rounded up and moved or sold.”
Horecka noted a sign of the resolute nature of what makes this country great—a flag at the Winnie Post office, cut in half by storm winds still standing tall.
“That flag seems symbolic to me—like the people of these hardest hit counties—torn, but still flying,” Horecka said.
The Texas AgriLife Extension Service is coordinating the relief effort. Cash donations are being accepted online at agrilifevents.tamu.edu or by calling 979-845-2604.
Donations of hay, feed or transportation services are being handled by the Texas Department of Agriculture. People wishing to donate these items may call the TDA Hay Hotline at 877-429-1998, or by call 800-835-5832 and press zero at the prompt.