Riding With Rescuers In Houston | KERA News

Riding With Rescuers In Houston

Aug 30, 2017
Originally published on August 30, 2017 6:33 am
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene reporting from Houston, Texas. We're down here reporting on the impact of tropical storm Harvey, which again made landfall, this time in Louisiana, after dropping record amounts of rain here around Houston. And, Rachel, there was this really strange feeling last night. The rain finally stopped in the evening. It was incredible.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Wow. That is a relief, I imagine, but it doesn't mean a whole lot at this point.

GREENE: And that's the strange feeling. I mean, you have to keep that in perspective. There were even a few streaks of sunlight, but this catastrophe is still unfolding in the city. As of yesterday, I mean, people were still being rescued. And we're talking about five days after the storm arrived in Texas. We went to Cypress Creek. It's this neighborhood north of Houston that is completely submerged. Bill Dan (ph) and his cousin, Matthew Hernandez (ph), have a fishing boat. They were just doing these volunteer rescues. And we got on their boat near this bridge where they were launching, headed out with them. This is Matt.

MATTHEW HERNANDEZ: I'm not too familiar with the area. Yeah. I'm learning my way. We're just kind of going off, you know, looking everywhere, everywhere we can. And we got a lot of current here.

GREENE: Yeah. And that's the thing - many of the people who are doing the rescues here have come from other communities, and so they don't know their way around. I mean, of course, it's unrecognizable to locals as well because this neighborhood is now a lake - except it isn't.

So we're passing what - I can see a stop sign and two street signs. And the water's just all the way up to - the street signs are just peeking out over the water.

HERNANDEZ: Oh, there's a car. See that ripple right there? That's the roof of a car.

GREENE: Yet we almost hit a car that was just below the surface. Now, the houses around here, water has consumed the first floors. Most residents have gotten out of here. These guys have been searching for the stragglers for the past few days. And they got some help finding one family.

HERNANDEZ: There's a lady came through on a jet ski, and we followed her through the neighborhood once she found them. And it was a family of seven. They were stuck on the second floor, plus their dog and a big lizard. They had some kind of bearded dragon or something. And we put two kids and the pets in our boat. And the group we were with, they took the rest of them.

GREENE: Matt and Bill got this family to safety barely. They hit this strong current as they were coming back to the bridge, and they were saying prayers that the kids wouldn't be thrown overboard. And there was another family.

HERNANDEZ: On a road called Superior Road, we pulled a family of four out of there. Well, only four of them were willing to leave. There was about eight of them in the house. And to get up to their area, we had to dodge a bunch oak trees - like a slalom going through the oak trees with a really bad - probably at least four to five knot current.

GREENE: He mentioned only four people in that family were willing to leave. This is actually something they've been dealing with - stubbornness. We saw one couple through an upper-floor window of their house, and they just calmly waved us off. They were hoping that they could wait this out and that the water will recede at some point. The problem with that, Matt told us, is that people will say, no, we don't want to evacuate. But then night falls, and it feels terrifying to be out here. Families will then call back and they'll say, OK, now it's time to come get me. And then rescues are a lot more dangerous because it's dark.

HERNANDEZ: Bill has his skills. He's an Army medic. I had my navigating skills as a former captain. And we knew we were somewhat qualified to do it. But I could run a boat. He could help anyone that needed help, so we kind of felt obligated to come out and help. As long as they need us, we'll come out.

GREENE: Matthew Hernandez doing rescues with his cousin, Bill Dan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.