Hurricane Harvey left widespread destruction and people from across the country and state have showed their support including the Stephenville Fire Department, which sent teams to different areas to help.
The E-T sat down with three of those men — paramedic Bryson Kanady, Captain Stephen Apala and Assistant Fire Chief Chuck Elliott — to hear their experiences on the relief effort.
Bryson Kanady (12 days):
Kanady, along with Aaron Hoodie, started off evacuating people from Victoria transporting patients to hospitals in San Antonio and then were given orders to go to Houston working in the convention center.
“We did about 50 hours worth of transporting patients,” Kanady said.
Kanady said the experience was humbling.
“It made me feel blessed for what I have here,” he said.
Stephen Apala (nine days):
Apala is part of a Medical Incidents Support Team (MIST) and was sent to Corpus Christi to help with hospital evacuations one day before Hurricane Harvey hit.
He was then moved to Victoria to help evacuate a hospital after the storm.
“From there I went to Houston, where I stayed nine days, and spent several hours in Conroe for medical helicopter evacuations out of Beaumont,” Apala said. “I was actually in the hospital, or facility, and we determined what patients the ambulances took out — in what order they go in.”
In Corpus Christi Apala and his group moved 300 people in 12 hours and in Victoria transported 86 patients in eight hours.
“At first it was kind of chaotic because you were all over the place, but then it settled down when we got a rhythm with how we’re moving around,” Apala said. “But they were long days. We were working somewhere around 30 hours straight and then four or five hours of sleep and then doing it again.”
Due to power outages there weren’t places to stay, so Apala said vehicles became places of rest.
“In that whole south Texas area everyone just seemed to be happy that we were there to help and very receptive to all of us,” Apala said. “It was a good experience in that way, but the devastation was hard to see.”
Kanady said his final assignment was in Beaumont.
“There are a lot of people that have been displaced from their homes and are living on the street right now and a lot of these people haven’t had water in days,” he said. “Right now I believe they have water, but they didn’t for days. Everything was just so torn up and people weren’t able to function as normal. You don’t think about what running water means.”
Chuck Elliott (seven days):
Elliott is a member of the West Central Texas Instant Management Team (IMT) team that is an all hazard team that goes anywhere a disaster strikes.
“If you just need a gallon of milk and nobody has one then it keeps climbing up the chain until we find out how many people need a gallon of milk and we supply that,” he said. “I work at the district level, it’s called a DC or a DDC which is a Disaster District Chair or Disaster District Committee. We worked in a room and it was full.”
Elliott was first sent to El Campo, then ended up in a small town called Pierce.
“I’m a situations person, which involves everything from measuring the water in the river to how it’s climbing to the weather to how many truck we have here and how many people are in all these different shelters and what’s available and closing down,” Elliott said. “We had everything from the Cajun Navy, all the way up to Navy SEAL team that was available for us. We had a multitude of resources.”
He also worked closely with the District Chair of the area, DPS highway patrol, Texas Task Force 1, Texas Task Force 2, Arizona Task Force, California Task Force, the 111th Engineer Battalion and several others.
“What I found amazing about the whole process is that it didn’t matter if you were a person with a boat or if you were actually Coast Guard, nobody got told no,” Elliott said.
Elliott and the others were taking care of Wharton County, Austin County, Colorado County, Fort Bend County and Matagorda County.
“I know in Fort Bend County we had over 10,500 water rescues and evacuated over 180,000 people from the area,” Elliott said. “The most memorable thing when I went was people working with people.”