The Texas coastal city of Rockport has been devastated by Hurricane Harvey, and the city of Fort Worth has offered help.
Mayor Betsy Price has extended Fort Worth’s offer of aid, and Rockport Mayor C.J. Wax said he appreciated the offer. Wax said most residents of the city evacuated, and he has asked them to stay where they are as the city has faced major devastation and major utility disruptions.
Barricades are going up to keep people out of the city because there is no way to support residents who do return, Wax said.
It was part of a grim scene in which one Aransas County resident died in a fire, but it is unknown whether the fire was caused by the hurricane, Wax said Saturday.
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On Friday, Rockport Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Rios told people who chose not to evacuate to use a Sharpie pen to mark their arms with their Social Security number and name, implying that the marks would make it easier for rescuers to identify them.
While search-and-rescue operations are underway throughout the Texas Gulf Coast region, some of Dallas-Fort Worth’s first responders hadn’t been cleared to begin helping those in need as Harvey stalls over cities and towns in southeast Texas. A MedStar crew tweeted that it was headed to Victoria about 6:30 p.m.
Rumors on the internet, however, that several people in Rockport were injured have not been confirmed, Wax said. Reports that at least a dozen people in the area have been injured continue to trickle out.
The rain continued in the area and the city is faced with the dual challenges of getting the utilities working again and preparing for the potential of a catastrophic flood from a stalled storm, Wax said.
“Even if your house is in pristine condition and you went there you would have no food, no water, no electricity, no internet,” Wax said. “Just stay where you are and we will let you know when it’s safe to come back.”
Saturday was a day of rescues.
U.S. Coast Guard helicopters rescued 15 people aboard vessels in distress near Port Aransas. Coast Guard personnel plucked seven people from a tug boat in Sabine Pass and airlifted them to a rig near Aransas Pass, while two groups of four people were airlifted from two other vessels, one of which was taking on water.
Another Coast Guard helicopter rescued two people and a dog near Rockport and ferried them to Spohn Hospital in Corpus Christi.
Shortly before 1 p.m. Saturday, Harvey was downgraded to a tropical storm. It was a Category 1 hurricane three hours earlier after smashing ashore as a Category 4.
Some area responders are staged near Rockport, the Aransas County seat, with a population of just over 10,000, one of the cities hardest hit by the storm’s arrival.
Responders may have to wait until Sunday to get into the areas that have seen the most damage, because of continued rain and torrential flooding. Several first responders from North Texas are among groups culled from organizations the state are engaging in relief efforts already. Others will move into place as the situation becomes safer for first responders.
Texas Task Force 1
A total of 17 Fort Worth Fire Department personnel are part of Texas Task Force 1, an urban search-and-rescue outfit in the Rockport/Port Aransas area. Some are from the department’s dive teams.
Two Fort Worth fire vehicles and two rescue boats were staged with the team in Corpus Christi until just after 8:30 a.m., according to tweets from the department.
The Grapevine Fire Department sent four to the disaster area: two as part of an ambulance strike team in Corpus Christi, one with Task Force 1 and another with Task Force 2.
Task Force 1 pulls its members from 60 agencies and companies throughout Texas and is organized through the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service.
Seven MedStar personnel were still staged in the San Antonio area as of 10:45 a.m. Saturday, waiting to be deployed into areas surrounding Victoria, Rockport and Corpus Christi.
With winds still gusting to 75 mph in the coastal region, MedStar spokesman Matt Zavadsky said it still had not been deemed safe enough to send them in. The National Weather Service is still calling the level of flooding “catastrophic” and “life-threatening” in coastal areas. Some areas are expected to get up to 40 inches of rain.
When those medics are called in, they will be working hand-in-hand with Task Force 1 on search-and rescue operations.
“Some will go door-to-door, others will go anywhere else their incident commander says help is needed,” Zavadsky said.
MedStar brought an AMBUS mobile hospital unit as well as a special operations unit pickup truck down for the effort.
Denton County Game Warden
Denton County Game Warden Josh Bulger was one of two from his office on the way to Tilden, a small town between San Antonio and Corpus Christi, Saturday morning. He said he expected to arrive at his staging area just after noon.
He said game wardens from all over Texas were bringing rescue boats, though he said he didn’t know if those operations would begin Saturday or Sunday.
“We’re going to be trying to rescue people who stayed and got flooded out,” Bulger said. “We’ll have a team of about a dozen guys working in that area, with other partners spread out toward the Houston area.”
In an address Saturday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said that about 1,000 total personnel were involved in search-and-rescue efforts.
Cook Children’s Medical Center
In Fort Worth, the final pair of babies transferred from Driscoll Children’s Hopsital in Corpus Christi to the Cook Children’s neonatal ICU unit in Fort Worth arrived at 6:30 a.m. Friday, according to Cook spokeswoman Kim Brown. Their parents were all expected to arrive Saturday or Sunday.
“The babies are being cared for. Their parents had to find their own transportation to get here,” Brown said. “[The babies] did well getting here. They handled the trip pretty well. They’re all settled in and getting the care they need.”
Four planes, one owned by Cook, one owned by Driscoll and two from Children’s hospital in Dallas, shuttled one baby at a time from Corpus to Fort Worth’s Meachem Field, starting on Thursday.
DFW Red Cross
Two Red Cross shelters have been opened in Dallas for evacuees from the affected areas.
DFW Red Cross spokesman Dan Halyburton said 286 evacuees were sheltered at the Walnut Hill Recreation Center on Friday night. A second shelter was opened late Friday night at the Tommie Allen Recreation Center in Dallas, at 7071 Bonnie View Rd.
“The majority of the people I’ve run across who have come to the Dallas shelters have been from Houston,” Halyburton said. “If the need arises, we’ve got pre-positioned supplies at a number of shelter locations, so these things can go up pretty fast as needed.”
For now, all those pre-positioned shelter locations will be in Dallas. State officials will reimburse the city for its costs.