TAHC to evaluate JB Wells’ ability to house evacuated animals


Gonzales County Emergency Management Coordinator Jimmy Harless said Tuesday his department is hosting a training session in Gonzales for the Texas Animal Health Commission, which is the reason for a large presence of TAHC employees in the community this week.

TAHC will be conducting an evaluation of the JB Wells Park, Rodeo and Expo Center on Wednesday, June 5, to determine how the facility can best be used to house large animals — including livestock and show animals — being evacuated from the Gulf Coast due to hurricanes and tropical storms.

“This is something that the TAHC does for counties at no cost to the county to help get prepared for the upcoming hurricane season,” Harless said. “They did a similar evaluation for DeWitt County a few months ago. Once we have their recommendations put together into a plan, we will bring it back before the commissioners court for their approval.”

The Texas Animal Health Commission has a five-part mission:
• to protect the animal industry from, and/or mitigate the effects of domestic, foreign and emerging diseases;

• to increase the marketability of Texas livestock commodities at the state, national and international level;

• to promote and ensure animal health and productivity;

• to protect human health from animal diseases and conditions that are transmissible to people; and,

• to prepare for and respond to emergency situations involving animals by conducting agency business in a responsive, cooperative and transparent manner.

Because natural disasters affect animals as much as they do their human counterparts, TAHC works with local, state, federal, non-governmental, and sector partners to help plan for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters that affect livestock and companion and service animals.

Hurricanes and tropical storms can cause catastrophic damage along the coastline and for several hundred miles inland. Severe weather has the potential to cause catastrophic loss of life and property, financial, and environment damage to local communities. Animals may be displaced and need temporary sheltering, housing feeding, and care. They may also be injured or diseased and need veterinary attention.

Interstate 10, which runs through Gonzales County, is a hurricane evacuation route for residents in the Houston area and along the Gulf Coast. Because of this, Gonzales County is considered to be a place where a number of evacuees may hunker down to wait for Gulf Coast storms to end.

The NOAA National Weather Service forecasters at the Climate Prediction Center are predicting above-normal hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin, which includes the Gulf of Mexico, this year. NOAA’s outlook for the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season, which spans from June 1 to Nov. 30, predicts an 85 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 10 percent chance of a near-normal season and a five percent chance of a below-normal season.

NOAA is forecasting a range of 17 to 25 total named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher). Of those, eight to 13 are forecast to become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including four to seven major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). Forecasters have a 70 percent confidence in these ranges.