Helping out after Harvey

September 11, 2017

Hurricane Harvey has touched our state in so many ways and has burdened our hearts for those so closely affected. Those whose lives will never be the same. Here at home in good old flat West Texas, flooding of that scale is just incomprehensible for us. We see the pictures and the videos but we just have a hard time wrapping our heads around what that must be like first hand.

One of our own Texas Department of Public Safety officers has just returned from serving in that area for 10 days. Sergeant Bill Robles of Plains (married to BHS grad Amanda Davis) got the call on August 27 to pack his bags and head south with the second wave of DPS officers to serve in the area.

“I had a team of nine officers with me and we tried to get to Katy that first night, but couldn’t make it due to the flooding,” stated Robles. They spent that first night in Austin and then got up at 6:00 the next morning and ended up at Buc-Eee’s (a popular convenience store franchise in the area).

“The roadways were flooded and the manager at Buc-Eee’s called in his staff and they just made us feel at home. They cooked for us and really took care of us and anyone else that was stranded there,” said Robles.

From there, they moved on to Katy and eventually to an Academy Sporting Goods store that had opened their doors for them. There they rode out the rest of the storm.

On Tuesday, August 29, the officers made their way to the George R. Brown Center where a refugee camp had been set up. Their job there was to assist the Houston PD in crowd control and security. “When we got there, there were over 10,000 people staying in the building. It was the complete opposite of what you saw with Katrina (the hurricane that devastated New Orleans in 2005). The people were well behaved and well taken care of. It was clean. There was tons of food and clothing that had been donated. People had cots on which to sleep. Spirits were good and there was really no crowding issues while we were there.”

The number in the Brown Center was down to around 2,500 before the officers left. Robles stated, in speaking of the attitude of the people, “There was an impromptu dance off held among the refugees which we enjoyed watching.”

From there, the officers headed to northwest Houston to patrol the looting that had started. Robles stated that several stores had been broken into but once the officers arrived in force, the looting seemed to come to an end in that area.

He stated that his group did not participate in any water rescues as they were working nights and unless it was an extreme emergency, no water rescues were done at night.

Being a West Texas guy, Robles stated, “The amount of flooding was so hard for me to take in. You would see overpasses in which the water was all the way up to the overpass road. Houses were everywhere in which only the roofs were visible. Four miles of I-10 were completely underwater. It is just hard for us to imagine that amount of water.”

Robles’ family had been on vacation to Port Aransas just three short weeks prior to the Hurricane’s arrival. “I would have liked to have seen what Port Aransas looked like but we didn’t make it there. We spent several days in Vidor patrolling. If Port Aransas looks anything like Vidor, it will be a long time before anything is back to normal for these people. There was 100% structural damage reported in these areas.”

One thing that has really stuck with Robles is how very caring Texans are. “The State takes care of us when we are on patrol, but we had people everywhere wanting to feed us, to let us stay with them, to even do our laundry. And it wasn’t just us. Strangers were opening their homes to others in need. It was really great to see Texans pulling together.”

He stated everyone was in good spirits in spite of the devastation and ready to get to rebuilding the area. He also mentioned that it wasn’t just Texans working down there. “There was a nurse from Wisconsin, a Deputy from Michigan, the Los Angeles PD was there. People were coming from everywhere to help.”

Robles urged West Texans to continue to help out until you are told otherwise. “Keep sending water and other non-perishables. There will be needs for a long time to come.”

In closing, Robles stated, “I am proud to be a Texan and so proud of how Texans showed up to help each other out. Everyone has pulled together to help the community and the responders. I am so proud of this state.”

Continue to pray for those affected as this will be a long lasting incident whose effects will be felt for a long time to come.

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