When Hurricane Harvey struck southern Texas, David Henry, owner of Henry Investment Group, decided he could not stand on the sidelines. He called on friends and employees to join in the relief effort, loaded trucks and a 5-ton military vehicle with supplies, bought a boat and headed to Houston. In an effort to share the level of devastation and to emphasize the long-term need for assistance, he shared his story and photos below.
Henry Investment Group | Disaster Relief
Saturday, August 26th
On Saturday the 26th of August, I was watching news footage showing the damage that Hurricane Harvey was causing on the Texas coast. The forecasts were calling for 50 inches of rain or more. I remember thinking there are so many people in the path of the hurricane and with that much rain, this is going to be a disaster. I thought to myself, how can I help?
Sunday, August 27th
Sunday, the situation continued to worsen and I talked to my wife about ways we could help. I stayed up much of the night thinking about it. I thought about our 5-ton military truck that we used at our ranch and how helpful it would be in a rescue effort. If I was in a flooded house and couldn't get away, I hope someone would help me and my family. My biggest concern was getting in the way of rescue efforts that were already underway.
Monday, August 28th
Monday morning, I decided that I needed to start putting my plan in action; I wasn't going to rescue anyone in Flower Mound. My employees and I started reaching out to people that we thought might know where help was needed the most. Some people were making calls and some were gathering supplies that we might need. Some of the items we gathered were flashlights, axes, chainsaws, ropes, chains, cots, generators, water, hundreds of gallons of gasoline and diesel, and finally some food and water. We had a boat lined up but it ended up having a problem, so I bought one at Bass Pro Shop. After this mad scramble, we headed out Monday afternoon still not knowing where to go. We just knew that we were headed towards the hurricane devastation and people in need.
Lynn Baker, who works for our ranch, was in charge of getting the 5-ton military truck to our rendezvous point. My friend Josh Hopkins from Midland brought supplies and Caden Nelson and I headed out from Flower Mound. We were meeting west of Katy and would then depart for the flooded areas.
photo: Loading supplies outside of Waco, Texas.
As we got close to Katy, Texas the flooding was progressively worse. Houses and cars were under water and some were engulfed in flames. It was shocking to see the chaotic mess the storm precipitated. We headed to the designated central area the DPS had set up and dropped off part of our supplies. From there four great DPS officers and two firemen got in the 5-ton truck with us. We rigged-up the boat to float behind us then we were on our way. They sent us to the outlying communities that nobody could get to with regular pickups. We went to help evacuate a chemical plant that later exploded. We also picked up people in flooded cars trying to cross bridges on the highway.
photo: West of Katy, Texas
Tuesday, August 29th
We received a call that people needed help outside of Liberty, Texas. First responders were having problems reaching people because water was at least four feet deep in some areas, but was too shallow for boats in other places. We saw many great volunteers here trying to help. There were entire neighborhoods where cars and houses were under water. We were able to bring some people out from here. We ran into a man who was pulling his wife, who had a broken leg, in a boat. We were able to stabilize her on a ladder with life jackets and get her to an ambulance that was waiting to pick her up on higher ground.
photo: South of Liberty, Texas
It was now long after dark and we had a several hours drive back to Houston. On the way, we hit high water several times and had to test how deep it was to see if other trucks could follow us through. We got back to Houston late that night hoping to get some much needed rest in rooms that we acquired in a hotel.
We showed up to the hotel and only one man was working. We went to our rooms and found they were all still dirty from previous guests. There was no one to clean the rooms, so they gave us other rooms and Caden was able to get sheets and towels to clean his own room.
Wednesday, August 30th
Tired, but still wanting to help, we headed to the DPS center again. At this point two more friends joined us. There were hundreds of National Guard troops at the DPS center by this time. Some were sleeping in cots, others were headed out to help people. After some coordination, we found out Beaumont and Port Arthur had received 26 inches of rain the night before. So once again we were headed towards the storm.
On this trip we decided to take all of our trucks and our boat. The road to Beaumont was closed, so we had to find a way taking back roads. We came upon an RV and several people trying to turn around. We sent Lynn ahead in the 5-ton truck to check out the road ahead. He called and said he thought the other trucks would make it through, so we forged ahead. After many miles of driving, we ran into a truck stalled in more than two feet of water. This was concerning because it would be extremely hard to back up for miles in deep water with a trailer. I jumped out wearing waders and tested the water's depth. Thankfully, we had some room on the side to get around the stalled vehicles.
photo: Heading to Beaumont, Texas.
For miles we drove in high water with stalled out vehicles everywhere. There were houses and barns under water and animals on top of anything high they could find. From here we were able to pass the barred section of Highway 90 resulting from the burned chemical plant from the day before. As we drove on towards Beaumont, there were sections of Highway 90 that were covered under two feet of water for miles. We passed Nome and China, both were mostly submerged as far as the eye could see.
photos: Nome, Texas
In Beaumont we dropped off the smaller trucks and boarded the 5-ton military truck with the boat. Port Arthur was in disarray. Helicopters from the Navy, Coast Guard, and Red Cross were hovering overhead. Dump trucks were showing up to a shopping center to unload evacuees. The National Guard had not arrived with high water vehicles yet. There were Humvees available, but they couldn't cross some of the areas with deeper water. We were once again sent to an area that couldn't be reached. People had been calling to be rescued for eighteen hours, but no one had the equipment to get to them. We headed out with a convoy of boats behind us.
We arrived in southern Port Author which is very close to the sea wall. Entire neighborhoods were under water. Debris, trash cans, cars and everything else was floating in the water. When the water touched our skin, it burned on contact. Sewers were backing up and bubbling in the street. Houses had four feet of water in them or more in some places. We separated from the boat and took off in two groups. The helicopters would hover over houses to let us know where to go. Sheets and towels were marking houses that needed to be evacuated. We went from block to block picking people up and taking them to higher ground or to busses. There were lots of people from all over the country helping out. You really got to see how great the human spirit was. We gave money to families with kids. We picked up a pregnant woman and her husband who had gotten their kids to safety, but then went back to get more necessities for the next few days. We picked up many people holding their belongings in trash bags and also picked up some cats and dogs. At one point we had a pit bull and a cat in the truck at the same time. They seemed to like each other, the situation just seemed to bring everyone together, cats and dogs alike.
photos: Port Arthur, Texas
We had gotten separated from our group in the boat. We were a little worried about them, but we found them after a few hours. There were so many people that needed help that it kept both teams busy. Several boats had dropped people off with us. It was getting dark when we finally finished clearing this neighborhood of evacuees. We then headed to land to hook up the boat to the truck to make our way out. The water was pretty dangerous at night because you couldn't see where the street had drop-offs into drainage areas.
As we were hooking up the boat and trailer a family was dropped off next to us by a rescue worker. The rescue group had just gotten to the area and had unknowingly dropped off a family with young kids, an elderly woman and a three-week-old baby in a precarious location. There was high water for long distances on both sides of them now and the mosquitoes were very bad also. We were worrried they would be stuck there all night so we got the ladder out, loaded them up and took them to a Walgreens where they had lots of family waiting. They were so appreciative they invited us to dinner with their family. We gave them some money to help out and wished them luck with everything.
Late Wednesday Night - Thursday, August 31st
At this point we were all exhausted. We had gotten word that the National Guard had troops coming in to help and it was a good time to head home. There weren't any available hotel rooms, so we decided to split up. Caden and I headed back to Dallas and the rest headed back to Houston. As Caden and I looked at the map, it looked like all the roads back north were impassable. We headed west and then north on a road we thought was clear. We ended up at a high water crossing that was four feet deep and uncrossable. At this point we were exhausted, but we had one more road to try. If we couldn't get through, we were going to sleep in the truck. Thankfully, we did get through, and made it back to Flower Mound Thursday morning.
The damage we saw in some areas was catastrophic and will take years to repair and rebuild. The areas close to Houston with more infrastructure will be repaired more quickly. Some of the areas farther out, such as Port Arthur, will need more help.
We are working on ways we can help these areas and get more of our companies involved. If you would like to join us in this effort, please visit Aermotor Windmill - Hurricane Disaster Relief to learn more about our what we're doing to help.
I want to give special thanks to several people: our HIG employees that donated and coordinated the rescue mission; Debbie Ortega, my assistant, for all her work; our El Pollo Loco Restaurants in the Dallas area for feeding stranded people; Tan Parker for getting us in touch with the right people to help; all Henry Company Employees that helped steer us on to where we needed to go; and especially my wife for all her work getting me ready to go and taking care of everything at home while I was gone. Also, thanks to Jordan Beeman of Heartbrand Ranch for letting us stay at his ranch.
Special thanks to everyone on the ground: Lynn Baker from H5 trophy ranches, Caden Nelson from HIG, Josh Hopkins, Brent Bednarik of Dallas, Corbin Spell of Cypress and the DPS and firemen that worked with us.
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