Rain kept pummeling communities in Texas on Monday, flooding a broader swath of the Houston area, disrupting the lives of current and former Ohio residents caught in the maelstrom and hampering the emergency efforts of Ohioans trying to help.
Abbie Mason, a 2014 graduate of Cedarville University whose parents live in Springfield, planned to ride out now-Tropical Storm Harvey with her husband Mark from the second floor of their suburban Houston home.
“We’re starting to see boats coming by to pick people up,” she said midday Monday. “We opened up our bedroom windows, and we are hearing people yelling help as the boats drive by: ‘Help, come get us.’”
As the storm dumped more rain on their Richmond, Texas, neighborhood, the Masons, who married in March, moved all the furniture they could to the second floor of their recently purchased home.
“I’m glad we bought this two-story house two months ago or we’d be in a lot more trouble,” Abbie said.
By late Monday afternoon, the Masons were getting on a boat and heading to a shelter. The neighborhood was being evacuated because of the reservoir.
Even before then-Hurricane Harvey made it ashore, Mark Mason tried to erect a barrier of concrete blocks around the front door, attempting to keep the rising floodwaters from entering the house.
But it did little good as water poured in Sunday night.
“It started coming in through the sides of the walls, through the floors, through the baseboards,” she said.
Sustaining themselves on Pop-tarts — the couple and their dog have been joined by another neighborhood couple and their two dogs upstairs while reports predict the water to rise even higher.
“We’re not going anywhere,” Abbie said with two more feet of rain predicted.
Hurricane Harvey made landfall just as a 9-year-old Versailles boy underwent neurosurgery at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.
Aiden Myers has a rare genetic disease called Tuberous Sclerosis Complex or TSC, which causes tumors to grow in many of his organs.
“We just have no idea when we will be able to get back home,” said Danielle Myers, Aiden’s mother. “The scope of it is so much more than what you see…it’s staggering to look at.”
The Myerses are stuck at the hospital while many employees can’t get in or out. But it’s not their family they are worried about.
“Our hearts are with the people, the staff taking care of us here at Texas Children’s,” Myers said. “They may not have a home to go to, we do in Ohio.”
Greg Boyer is separated from his Houston house by about a half mile. It might as well be across an ocean.
“I’ve tried a couple of times to go over there,” said Boyer a 2012 University of Dayton graduate who works for Findlay-based Marathon Petroleum Corp.
Boyer, 27, is now safe at a friend’s downtown Houston townhouse, but sounds from the sky warn many have yet to find shelter.
“I can’t even begin to describe it,” he said Sunday. “A sobering moment was waking up this morning to the sound of helicopters.”
Rescues and aiding victims
After the drive from Kettering, it took little time for Ohio Task Force 1 members to put their lifesaving skills to work.
In the early Monday darkness as the deluge continued, the team launched its boats in Katy, Texas, and began searching a neighborhood near the high school.
They rescued as many as 20 people, including a man stranded in a tree.
The 49-member team worked from the school’s agricultural barn — effectively turned into an island by floodwater — before being redirected later Monday by FEMA to new missions.
Part the team was dispatched to a Katy nursing home filling with water while others were sent to an area in south Houston to continue boat rescues.
“There’s a tremendous amount of water inundation and swift water issues,” said Mike Cayse, task force leader.
Swift-water rescue is newer mission developed over the last several years for urban search and rescue teams like Ohio Task Force 1, said Phil Sinewe, the group’s spokesman.
The team was activated for eight other hurricane missions since Katrina in 2005. In 2016, the task force rescued 100 people and more than two dozen animals during a six-day deployment prompted by Hurricane Matthew.
Gary Clark from Dayton was supposed to be in Houston making damage assessments for the American Red Cross. But the devastation is so widespread he can’t get there to report.
“The flooding is really bad, and it’s unsafe to go in the area,” said the volunteer for the Dayton Area Chapter.
He was rerouted to San Antonio and pressed into service helping to supply shelters for evacuees from places like Corpus Christi, Houston, Rockport and Victoria. Up to six Red Cross shelters were open Monday in San Antonio, about a three-hour drive from downtown Houston, he said.
“They are getting ready to open another shelter here, a mega-shelter that will hold about 2,000 evacuees,” he said. “That’s our process right now, getting the cots all set up and preparing for them to come in.”
Clark said he doesn’t know exactly where he’ll be, but he will be there for a time.
“This is a catastrophic event. It’s going to take a long-term recovery,” he said. “I’m going to be down here awhile.”
Staff writers Gabrielle Enright, Will Garbe and Caryn Golden contributed to this report.
Exclusive coverage: WHIO TV reporter Gabrielle Enright and photojournalist Chuck Hamlin will bring you live coverage from Texas on Hurricane Harvey beginning 8 a.m. today and throughout the weekend on NewsCenter 7.
On air: Hear updates on Hurricane Harvey during locally anchored newscasts today on AM 1290 and News 95.7 WHIO.
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