AMU Emergency Management Public Safety

Harvey Devastates Houston and Uproots Many Lives

By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest

As of Monday morning, up to 40 inches of rain had fallen on northeast Houston. Another 20 inches or rain are possible before Harvey, now downgraded to a tropical storm, moves east on Wednesday, the Houston Chronicle reports today.

Tropical storm warnings and flash flood emergencies are still in effect because Houston is likely to endure more heavy rain and catastrophic flooding during the next three days.

Rescue efforts will continue this week. Emergency personnel, the Army National Guard and ordinary citizens have evacuated thousands of residents to area shelters.

Judge Ed Emmett, the top administrator for Houston and Harris County, told a news conference today that “many people are being ferried to a parking lot, school or other dry area as rescue personnel move on to the next rescue that’s needed.” He added, “Those people then are struggling to find shelter, food and other resources,” according to the San Antonio Express News.

Flooded Nursing Home Photo in Houston Suburb Goes Viral

One rescue in particular went viral on social media Sunday. A photo of residents in the La Vita Bella nursing home in Dickinson were shown sitting in waist-high water, the Express News reported. Some of the 15 elderly residents suffering from dementia were in wheelchairs.

The first clue that anything was amiss came at 3 a.m. on Sunday when toilets in the nursing home began overflowing. La Vita Bella officials put their emergency preparedness plan into effect and prepared for an evacuation.

La Vita Bella owner Trudy Lampson told the Express News that she thought they had time to carry out carefully laid hurricane plans. “We were so well prepared,” Lampson said. “We even had containers for the [medical] charts.”

Overwhelming Need for Assistance Delays Nursing Home Rescue

Due to the overwhelming number of calls for assistance, however, La Vita Bella’s calls to 911 and other emergency responders, including state officials, were not immediately answered. “I was on the phone with anybody except for God,” employee Tina Davis said.

Finally, perhaps out of desperation, Lampson snapped a picture of the scene at the home and sent it to her daughter, Kimberly McIntosh. When McIntosh’s husband shared the picture on Twitter, it went viral. “Need help ASAP emergency services please,” he tweeted.

Finally, the Army National Guard arrived and evacuated the wet, half-clothed residents on mattresses to light-medium tactical vehicles that are well equipped for such conditions. Early Sunday afternoon, the workers and their patients arrived at Santa Fe Elementary School, where some were transferred to a church shelter. Others went to a local hospital as a precaution.

Houstonians Make Their Way to Main Emergency Shelter

Other area residents caught off guard by the rising water made their own escape. Bruce Perry, a 52-year-old homeless man, gathered his few belongings and walked to the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston. The convention center has been designated as an emergency shelter.

When the rising water reached his knees on Sunday morning, Perry said, “That’s it. I gotta leave,” he told a Chronicle reporter .

Brandon Polson and his five children between the ages of 7 and 11 were evacuated from the Clayton Holmes apartment complex, northeast of downtown Houston. His apartment was flooded with about three feet of water.

Polson started knocking on neighbors’ doors at about 6 a.m. to see who needed help. Police arrived about an hour later with a boat. “You have to have faith and stay positive for the kids,” Polson said. “They’re cold and sad, too. You’ve got to find a way to balance them not being all down and then protecting ourselves.”

Sarah Matthews also was evacuated from the Clayton Holmes complex, where she was visiting a friend. At 6 a.m., the water was waist-high at the apartment. By then, the flood waters had washed away her computer and her 14-month-old son Braylin’s stroller and playpen.

“I was shaking. I was about to go into a panic attack,” Matthews recalled. “It was terrifying. I don’t know how I’m going to replace my stuff.”

While many area roads, streets and highways remain closed, Corpus Christi International Airport resumed commercial air service on Monday. The two other Houston airports, George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport, have been shut down since midday Sunday.

David E. Hubler brings a variety of government, journalism and teaching experience to his position as a Quality Assurance Editor. David’s professional background includes serving as a senior editor at CIA and the Voice of America. He has also been a managing editor for several business-to-business and business-to-government publishing companies.

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