Joe's Journal: Hurricane Harvey coverage

Personal notes from ABC 17s Joe McLean, Kyle Oster

KATY, Tx. - Wednesday, August 30 - 3:00 p.m.

Location: Katy, Texas

Kyle and I spent the morning searching for a safe way back into the city of Katy. It took about 2 and a half hours to find a road that wasn't dangerously flooded, but we eventually arrived back at the Miller Technical and Career Center. Missouri Task Force One spent a little time in East Houston but didn't actually get to perform any rescue missions.

During the early afternoon when the rest of the team was in staging at Station 44, we were able to hang out with the MoTF1 maintenance crew to give some of the vehicles a little TLC.

Our plan is to wrap up our coverage in Texas tomorrow and begin the journey back home. All the way back, I'll probably be thinking about the rescue and recovery workers who will still be on the ground in southeast Texas and Louisiana. The clean-up effort will be ongoing for years and the city of Houston and the entire gulf coast will likely never be the same. Still, if not for the nation-wide response, including that of Missouri Task Force One, so many more lives would have been lost as a result of this, one of the most devastating weather events in U.S. history. 

Tuesday, August 29 - 9:00 p.m.

Location: Waller, Texas

The battle against deadly flooding in the Houston area continued in full force today. Sadly, a veteran Houston police officer died when he drove his vehicle into floodwater covering the Hardy Toll Way. Flood waters and rainfall hit record levels in the city, prompting a levee in the county south of Houston to breach.

Missouri Task Force One spent another day in the high water, rescuing Houstonians from the rising flood waters. I have a newfound respect for people who are constantly ready for any situation which aptly describes the members of Missouri's team and the other task forces.





As for Kyle and myself, we heard that more than 1,000 new agency operatives would be arriving at the Miller Technical School this afternoon. So, we decided it was time to evacuate and make room for the incoming workers. 

Tomorrow, we will continue our coverage of the recovery and relief efforts by FEMA and Missouri Task Force One.

Monday, August 28 - 9:00 p.m.

Location: Katy, Texas

Less than an hour before another reservoir was released that would have flooded the high school even more, Kyle and I were able to catch the last truck to the secondary staging location with Tennessee Task Force One. The team loaded our news vehicle onto a flatbed truck and, with us inside, delivered it to the Miller Technical and Career Center.

Missouri Task Force One spent the day in central Houston performing water rescues in the flooded suburbs. According to safety officer Terry Cassil, the team rescued more than 300 people and more than a dozen animals.



Later that night, Kyle and me were finally able to catch up with the team when they returned from Houston to the operations center here in Katy. For a crew that just spent an entire day traversing miles of flood waters, leaders of the task force were happy to chat with me.




Cassil said he does not know where the task force will be heading tomorrow, only that it will be the place where it is most needed.

Monday, August 28 - 9:00 a.m.

Location: Katy, Texas

In the last 20 hours, we arrived in Katy, Texas to torrential rainfall and dangerously flooded streets. We were able to make contact with Missouri Task Force one as they rendezvoused with the other teams at the local high school.

After getting some video, we decided to head to our hotel, a mere 2 miles away. however, the deep, flowing water covering the roads proved too risky to traverse. We ended up driving back to the high school and carrying what we could into the building. upon returning to the building, we learned Missouri Task Force One had evacuated to another school building as the flood water were making it difficult to get their vehicles in and out.

The first floor of the building began to fill with water and Kyle and I decided we were stuck here for the night. We would have had nothing on which to sleep but for the kindness of the members of Tennessee Task Force One who lent us sleeping bags. That team couldn't make it to the secondary location and , like us, were here for the night.

The sound of the alarm on the first floor and the smell of the stirred up sewage made for a difficult night, however, I'm sure it was ease compared to the horror hundreds of Texans are now facing in the wake of Tropical Storm Harvey.

We now must make the decision to remain at the High School or brave the still flooded roads of Katy.

Sunday, August 27 - 1:00 p.m.

Location: Rockport, Texas

As we arrived in Rockport, Texas just before noon, we learned we had just missed Missouri Task Force One. The team was on its way back to San Antonio for reassignment. That came hours later when the task force was deployed to Katy, Texas.

It left us a few hours to spend in the devastation left behind in Rockport, a city that was hit hardest by Hurricane Harvey when it was a Category 4 storm. There were downed power lines, fallen trees and buildings in ruin as far as my eyes could see. It looked as if the entire city was picked up, shaken and dropped back down.

Kyle and I came across a big building that was demolished by the wind. It was unclear what building it was before Harvey took it down. I dug through the rubble a bit and found three letters that once made up the sign. The letters were V, F and W.

Driving through the city, we saw mobile homes torn to ribbons, street signs wrapped around trees and those same trees uprooted and sideways as if they fell asleep. Dozens of police officers, state troopers and National Guardsman were patrolling up and down the streets clearing the debris and checking homes to see if anyone had not yet abandoned the battered city.

A short time later, we packed up and left for Katy, Texas to once again try to make contact with our fellow Missourians. 

Sunday, August 27 - 7:30 a.m.

Location: San Antonio, Texas

Last night, another life was lost in the aftermath of tropical storm Harvey, this time as a result of flooding. Reports from police say it was a woman in Houston. When this kind of storm happens, weather experts say it attacks in three tiers; first, the high-speed winds batter homes and buildings; second, flash flooding creeps up as a result of the ongoing rain; finally, the moisture accumulates and the flood waters rise to their peak.

Right now, reports say we are in the second stage of those three. The National Weather Service reading for the Colorado River show a steep increase in flooding over the next several days. The water level is expected to double at certain locations. This flooding, already having taken one life, poses the greatest threat to the people of southeast Texas. Hotels in the area, including the one Kyle and I stayed in last night, are waiving local and state taxes for those fleeing the storm. 

This morning, Missouri Task Force One will begin search and rescue operations near Rockport, Texas. That is where we are headed now.



From here, our trip will get much more dangerous and we will therefore, be that much more cautious as we continue. 


Saturday, August 26 - 8:00 p.m.

Location: Waco, Texas

We have just driven into the northern remnants of tropical storm Harvey which continues to drench southeast Texas. The crowded highways of Dallas have turned into the eerily empty ones that will lead us to Austin and then to the coast. We have learned that Missouri Task Force One is headed for Robstown, TX, which is just west of Corpus Christi.

During our drive, Kyle and I heard the report that one person died as a result of the storm. It was a resident of Rockport, one of the towns hit hardest when Harvey made landfall overnight. 

We will spend the night in the southern part of the capital city and will depart early tomorrow to document the search and rescue efforts. 



The task force said it will get to work at first light so, we will do the same. I'll update this article then.


Saturday, August 26 - 11:45 a.m.

Location: Southbound on Interstate 44

About 12 hours ago, Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph. It hit between Port Aransas and Port O'Connor and almost 300,000 homes in the area are now without power. The storm was downgraded to a category 1 hurricane by Saturday morning, but much of the danger is still ahead in the form of catastrophic flooding. Harvey, the biggest storm to hit the U.S. in a decade, brought with it a reported 10 to 20 inches of rain and reports show it could result in more than $40 billion in damage.

It's about midday now and I'm writing this from the passenger's seat as ABC 17's Kyle Oster drives down Interstate 44 through Tulsa. Missouri Task Force One already deployed a 47-member crew that is currently waiting in San Antonio to help provide relief.

As we drive down the highway at 70 mph, it's difficult for me to comprehend that the winds in Rockport, TX were gusting almost twice as fast overnight. The drive is mostly silent as we think about the people who have lost cars, homes and businesses as a result of this seemingly unnatural disaster. Fortunately, the storm has not resulted in any deaths but the danger faced by those in its path should not be underestimated. 



I'll post more updates to this journal as our coverage of Hurricane Harvey continues.

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