In Southeast Texas, the entire city of Port Arthur took on water during Hurricane Harvey. Rescue crews rushed to the town south of Beaumont to help thousands of people get to dry land.
A San Antonio firefighter was deployed through Texas Task Force 1 to make helicopter rescues there.
Cynthia Harmon and her family were stuck in the attic of her Port Arthur home for two days during Harvey cold, hungry and scared. The hum of a rescue helicopter was the best sound they had ever heard.
“I’ve never been in the helicopter and just to look up and see the distance of it, I was so scared,” said Cynthia Harmon.
She kept her eyes closed the entire way up.
“We had to get in the basket and they took us up one by one,” said Harmon’s grandson Christian Brown. “It was kind of scary at first. It was like water everywhere.”
Harmon, Brown and three other family members were flown to safety after enduring more than 48 hours of terror.
“We were stuck upstairs in the attic with no food, no water,” said Brown. “My Grandma was crying because she didn’t know what to do and it was hard to get people on the phone. Downstairs was flooded. If we went down there we probably would’ve drowned because most of us didn’t know how to swim.”
The helicopter rescue was the key to their survival.
The skies above Port Arthur buzzed for days from all kinds of emergency response aircraft.
On one of the Blackhawks was Helicopter Search and Rescue Team swimmer Joshua Powell.
He is a San Antonio firefighter who is also a member of Texas Task Force 1. The agency helps with search and rescues, partnering with the Texas Army National Guard during disasters. FEMA also has a hand in the efforts when an emergency requires federal attention.
“It’s always been to me important to help others,” said Powell. “My family brought me up that way.”
The father of four was on the second rescue plane to Rockport. Powell also remembers making hundreds of rescues in Port Arthur.
“I’ve never seen so much water cover the whole state. It was something to see. Quite devastating to see all the homes that were lost all the people that were in need.”
The work of Powell and other guardian angels during Harvey is something families recovering from the devastation hold dear.
“Whatever they was doing they just dropped it and they came straight over to help us,” said Brown. “I’m very thankful for that.”
Roughly five members of Texas Task Force 1 who were conducting helicopter rescues were from San Antonio and New Braunfels. Many more were on boats. Each and every one making a difference during the storm.