NEW: More than 200 rescue calls still being answered in Bellaire, City of (Flooded) Homes
By Charlotte Aguilar
Bellaire’s first responders, aided by volunteers, are doing their best Monday to get to 200 households still needing rescue from floodwaters resulting from as much as 40 inches of rain from Hurricane Harvey.
“To those still waiting, we haven’t forgotten about you,” said Mayor Andrew Friedberg in a message. “Please hang in there just a bit longer.”
The Emergency Command Center in this city of about 6,000 homes received some 1,750-1,800 calls for help — mostly rescue — on Sunday as waters rose, trapping residents, according to officials. Bellaire’s experienced communications team, which regularly handles police and fire calls, took down necessary information so that staff could prioritize responses. City Manager Paul Hofmann called the process “a kind of triage to allow us to make good decisions.”
“The first rescue operations prioritized the elderly and disabled and those with life-threatening emergencies,” explained Friedberg. “Among them were a paraplegic resident who had water up to the top of his bed, a baby on medical equipment with a depleting battery, an insulin-dependent diabetic stranded without food, and others with serious medical conditions.”
One-story homes received priority over multi-story homes where residents could escape to higher floors.
The operation — which went into the night, as was deemed safe — has been assisted by the National Guard, Metro, Centerpoint and volunteers who responded to the city’s call for flat-bottomed boats.
Also stepping up was the Crosspoint Church on Bellaire Boulevard, which established a transitional shelter for evacuees until they could be relocated to Red Cross centers or with family or friends. By evening, though, there were reports that the church facility had reached capacity.
A number of the evacuations merely consisted of moving residents to better-situated neighbors’ homes.
Hardest hit in Bellaire was Southdale, the southeast-most part of the city and its lowest elevation, closest to Brays Bayou. Reports indicated virtually all the homes there and in neighborhoods around Horn Elementary School were flooded. Many residents, who took to social media with desperate messages, described 5-8 feet of water in their homes.
Longtime resident and former Bellaire councilwoman Millie Hast told of her rescue on Facebook:
“I am grateful to the FD and PD guys who put life jackets on me and three neighbors, tied us together with rope, and walked us thru chest-deep water for block and a half to Loop 610, where we found a Centerpoint dump truck that took us to Crosspoint Church, which was dry inside. Then I walked thru the deep water another couple blocks to my daughter’s home, which is high enough to not flood. I was barefoot the whole time and soaking wet.”
At that point, Hast explained, her daughter and their neighbors took over. “Escaping with only the clothes on your back and no shoes is an unforgettable experience, but there are not enough words in the English language to express my gratitude to all who have helped me,” she wrote.
The city added a second line Sunday to accommodate the onslaught of requests. Anyone needing assistance or having concerns should call the Emergency Command Center at 713-662-8206.
Even though the waters subsided in many areas of Bellaire overnight, with rain continuing, emergency officials in Harris County have cautioned that the weather crisis is far from over.