Employees answer the call to help Hurricane Harvey flood victims | Atmos Energy

Employees answer the call to help Hurricane Harvey flood victims

October 4, 2017

Hurricane Harvey’s record-setting floods damaged or destroyed more than 300,000 homes in southeast Texas. Several employees traveled to the Houston area to help evacuate people.

Field Support Analyst Cory Crofford took four days of PTO and drove 15 hours from Kansas City, Kan., in a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT) with two friends, one of whom owns the high-water military vehicle. Their first stop was the municipal airport in Cleveland, Texas, where the trio unloaded supplies from airplanes.

Farther south in Port Arthur and Beaumont, they spent several days handling water evacuations from apartments and houses. The men used the vehicle’s small crane to pluck residents from second-story apartments or houses. The HEMTT holds more than 20 people.

“Some were using boats, which could only carry 2 to 3 at a time,” Crofford says.

“We loaded a lot of residents into the back of our vehicle and took them to a shelter. One day, I wore my Kansas Jayhawks shirt. People couldn’t believe we drove all the way from Kansas City. It felt great to be a part of this much-needed rescue effort.”

Volunteer firefighter Drew Hamrick, senior construction operator in Garland, Texas, spent six days in Houston, Port Arthur, Beaumont, Orange and Vidor, working with other firefighters and the Houston Police Dept. Teams of two would drive a boat to the front doors of houses. Residents were loaded into the boat and transported to a high-water vehicle and then to a shelter. Once a residence was empty, first responders put an X on the window, signifying to other first responders that no one was in the house.

“Our teams of two were connected with a safety rope,” Hamrick said. “If one guy goes down in the water, the teammate has a secure line to help the partner back up or to keep him from getting swept away in the current.”

Killeen, Texas, employees RJ Ledford and Brandon Spann knew two Houston firefighters who needed flat-bottom boats for rescue assistance. Taking four days of PTO, the men arrived Monday night, Aug. 28. They used Highway 290, which was underwater, as a boat ramp to link up with the Houston Fire Dept. and the Harris County Sheriff’s Dept.

“Monday night was pretty scary,” Spann said. “It was raining really hard, causing bad currents in some areas. There was concern that dams and levees would break, but they didn’t. We patrolled down streets in the boat yelling, ‘Is anybody out there?’ People were in their homes or on their roofs. We would float up to the house and load residents (and pets) into our boat.”

First responders and volunteers were waiting at a nearby Best Buy parking lot. Spann and Ledford would get out and drag the boat full of stranded residents to the parking lot.

“There were so many nice volunteers that helped us get people out of our boat and take them to shelters,” Ledford said. “Then we would return to a neighborhood to pick up more folks. We rescued a lot of people.” 

Round Rock, Texas, Construction Operator Landy Warren utilized many of the vehicle contacts he used back in March to help haul hay to the fire-devastated Texas Panhandle. “The Celebration Church in Georgetown was a collection point for food, water, diapers, personal hygiene, cleaning supplies, bedding, etc. They needed drivers, so I reached out to people that drove for me to the Panhandle. They delivered items to other churches in the Houston area. Hay was hauled to the Houston Livestock Show Rodeo grounds and Texas A&M Extension Service agents, and to individual ranchers.”

In Hutto, Texas, Doug Knauth and Julio Guerra used their forklift skills to unload supplies from trucks in a United Way warehouse. In Round Rock, Atmos Energy donated the use of a company truck and trailer at the local United Way. There, Junior Jaimes, Eric Duerr and Josiah Torrez loaded the trailer with babyrelated items like diapers, wipes and formula as well as trash bags and toiletries.

“Our enclosed trailer is 10 feet wide, 20 feet long and 10 feet high, and we stacked it to the ceiling,” Torrez says. “It took us nearly three hours. Then Eric and Junior drove the trailer to a church in Victoria, where they unloaded everything.”

Additionally, Atmos Energy’s Katy, Texas, office, which has four employees who operate and manage APT accounts, took two inches of water.

“Contractors had to cut out two feet of wet insulation and sheetrock and wait for the walls to dry before new sheet rock could be installed,” Operations Supervisor Daryl Talley said. “For about three weeks, personnel worked out of their service vehicles.”

“Operationally, we never lost a thing,” added Katy MIC Tech Allen Clark. “It was almost as if the flooding never happened. And all employees came out okay with their personal property. Considering how horrible this storm was, we were very fortunate.”