A storm that whipped through Medina County, Texas, the evening of March 19 killed five horses and destroyed three barns at Gene and Judy Palmieri's Silver Spur Ranch located about a half-hour southwest of San Antonio. Only five other horses of the 60 kept at the property were injured.
"It looks like total devastation, but honestly, it could be worse," Gene Palmieri said Thursday. "We're only going to miss two days of the breeding season because of this, we hope."
Palmieri described the storm as a tornado, but the San Antonio division of the National Weather Service is classifying the 80-100 m.p.h. straight line winds as a strong storm which covered a 33-county area in South Central Texas. Larry Eblen of the NWS said "that is more than sufficient (wind strength) to damage even some well-built structures." Rain and hail were also part of this storm system.
The winds went straight through Palmieri's stallion barn, which houses Crafty and Star Programmer.
"The way the pieces are strewn around the farm, it appears the barn lifted up off the stallions," he said.
As for the horses inside, Crafty was untouched. Star Programmer has a minor fetlock injury, which has already been treated. He and three other mares from Silver Spur are at the Alamo Vet Clinic for care.
Lea's Little D and her foal, who were owned by Dr. Douglas Michael Johnson, were picked up by the winds and deposited in a nearby lake. Both were saved.
"I saw it happen, but thought it was trees falling into the lake," Palmieri said.
Another foal, a Star Programmer--Show'em Kristi colt owned by the Palmieris, was picked up and thrown by the wind. The force broke his neck. His dam suffered a minor injury and is expected to recover.
Palmieri estimated all the damage occurred within a half-hour. He said he hasn't been off his farm yet, but he knows of neighbors nearby who lost their homes. His home is damaged, but livable, he said.
Other Texans have rushed to help the Palmieris. A group from the Texas Thoroughbred Association, including executive director Dave Hooper, were at Silver Spur March 21 helping collect and cart away pieces of damaged barns and cutting limbs into manageable pieces. Jim Jackson, owner of Valhalla Farms near Rockdale, Texas, sent over a load of hay, as did a local hay dealer. Palmieri's hay was also lost in the storm.