Cypress Trails Horses, Stranded in April Flood, Were Evacuated Early This Time

The floodwaters once again breached the banks of Cypress Creek and rolled over Cypress Trails this week. But this time Darolyn Butler, owner of the horse farm located in Humble, moved all her horses off the place well before the flood started. 

“When I saw the storm cells moving in last Friday morning, I said, 'Okay, we're out of here,'” she says now. Then she evacuated her horses to her evacuation pastures near George Bush Intercontinental Airport. 

This was a much swifter response to dealing with a possible flood than the one Butler took during the last flood, on April 18, when witnesses captured video of her horses flailing in fast-moving floodwaters that moved over the Humble property.

During the April flood, Butler, who has about 70 horses on the 11-acre property as part of her endurance and trail-riding business, says she was monitoring the rising creek on the edge of her property the night before until she fell asleep at 2 a.m. When she woke, a little before 4 a.m., the creek waters were already rushing over her place, most of which is located in a floodplain. By then the water was coming up so fast, Butler contends she had to choose between rescuing the vehicles on her property or rescuing the horses. She opted to save the horses and ended up stranded for more than two hours in the corral, trapped by the floodwaters. 

Meanwhile, passersby spotted her horses trapped in the waters. Even though law enforcement officers demanded everyone stay out of the water, people jumped from Cypresswood Drive Bridge, located on the edge of the property, and risked their lives to rescue the horses. Ultimately, two horses died and one is still missing, according to Butler. 

In the aftermath of the April incident, people who have in the past had to rescue her horses have pointed out that Butler has a long history of failing to get her horses off the flood-prone property before the creek rises and forces an emergency evacuation, as the Houston Press has previously reported.

Butler maintains the April flood situation was an aberration. "What you've got to understand is that in the 42 years I've been here, I've probably evacuated 80 to 100 times. If we're getting all the horses moved out in ankle-deep or even thigh-deep water, there's no danger. I can handle it because I've learned how to read the river. However, there was no reading the river on April 18. This was unprecedented, the rise and the speed of the current," Butler says.

Late last week, Butler had just brought some of the horses back to Cypress Trails and was conducting the first trail rides since April when she saw storms on the weather radar. Butler closed up shop and moved her horses. The next day, floodwaters were once again on the property.

Since then she's kept her horses in the evacuation pastures, and has been sitting in her house, surrounded by water, waiting for the floodwaters to recede. There's no telling when it will be safe to move the horses back to Cypress Trails, she says.

Butler says she feels for people who are dealing with having animals during the current flooding.

"Watching the stuff going on now, with horses stuck on the front porch and the cattle trapped in high water, I told one hater on Facebook that all of my haters are going to be really busy now castigating these new people who didn't evacuate and who lost livestock and horses and dogs and cats," Butler says. "But these people who are losing animals now are going to say the same thing I did, that it has never flooded like this before, it's never been this bad."
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Dianna Wray is a nationally award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Houston, she writes about everything from NASA to oil to horse races.
Contact: Dianna Wray