Swift water and flood rescue teams from Fort Worth joined dozens of other rescuers Sunday in the Houston area as they answered hundreds of desperate calls for help as floodwaters from the remnants of Hurricane Harvey rose.
In Victoria, MedStar crews from Fort Worth and other first responders evacuated a hospital Saturday night that had lost power during the weekend.
“They could be deployed up to two weeks,” Fort Worth fire Lt. Kyle Falkner said Sunday in a telephone interview referring to how long Fort Worth firefighters could be in the region.
A total of 24 Fort Worth Fire Department personnel are part of Texas Task Force 1, an urban search-and-rescue outfit in the Rockport/Port Aransas area. Two Fort Worth fire vehicles and two rescue boats were staged with the team in Corpus Christi Saturday, fire officials said.
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And Falkner said a Fort Worth team of swift water and flood rescue are in Houston Sunday.
Authorities in Houston urged stranded families to seek refuge on their rooftops.
A fleet of helicopters, airboats and high-water vehicles confronted flooding so widespread that authorities had trouble pinpointing the worst areas in Harris County. Rescuers got too many calls to respond to each one and had to prioritize life-and-death situations.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Harris County sheriff’s spokesman Jason Spencer.
Officials urged people not to crawl into attics but to get on top of them. The Coast Guard advised people to wave sheets or towels to draw attention to themselves.
Police evacuated two apartment complexes overnight in the Greenspoint neighborhood, rescuing more than 50 children from rising water.
Rainfall of more than 4 inches per hour resulted in water levels higher than in any recent floods and higher than during Tropical Storm Allison in June 2001, said Jeff Linder of flood control district in Harris County, which includes Houston.
MedStar spokesman Matt Zavadsky said Sunday the MedStar team from Fort Worth and other first responders could be headed to the Houston area within a day.
Two MedStar vehicles and seven staff members are in the region, Zavadsky said Sunday.
“We could be headed to the Houston area within 24 hours,” Zavadsky said.
In Friendswood near Houston, authorities asked people with flat-bottomed airboats or fuel for them to help rescue people, KPRC-TV in Houston reported Sunday morning.
In Houston, dump trucks and city buses were used to ferry residents to higher ground.
The Coast Guard, which received more than 300 requests for help, deployed five helicopters and asked for additional aircraft from New Orleans.
The director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long, said the government expected to conduct a “mass care mission” and predicted that the aftermath of the storm would require FEMA’s involvement for years.
“This disaster is going to be a landmark event.”
The rescues unfolded a day after the hurricane settled over the Texas coastline. It was blamed for killing at least two people and injuring up to 14.
Anxiety ran high throughout the region between Corpus Christi and Houston because some of the areas with the greatest hurricane damage were inaccessible to rescuers. And the forecast for days of steady rain threatened to inundate the region’s flat landscape with as much as 40 inches (100 centimeters).
In the island community of Port Aransas, population 3,800, officials were unable to fully survey the town because of “massive” damage. Police and heavy equipment had only made it into the northernmost street.
This report contains information from the Associated Press.