Our turn to help those affected by wildfires, floods

Hurricane Harvey’s devastating flooding kept eyes and hearts focused on the Gulf regions, while the unbridled fury of wildfires destroyed swathes of the West and Far West. Both fire and flood hit too close to home for our family.

My seven-month-pregnant granddaughter and her husband live in a Houston suburb, as do several of my relatives. Jo and Brandon reside on a hill that ended up completely surrounded by water, but their house kept dry and safe, thank goodness. They had enough bottled water, food and other supplies to last several weeks in addition to alternate cooking, lighting, and heating sources. They didn’t evacuate because officials told them prior to the storm to shelter in place. Like the majority of Houston residents, by the time the vastness of the flooding became apparent, it was too late to vacate.

My cousin, Chris, also lives on higher ground and weathered the storm. We have not yet heard from our other cousins, however. We know they were flooded out.

Thankfully, the cavalry arrived in the form of volunteers, law enforcement, military, and the United States Coast Guard from stations across the United States. My Coastie grandson was deployed along with his Heartland unit from St. Louis at the beginning of the storm. Jay is a Helmsman and Marine Services Technician. They hit the ground running. His unit rescued over 500 people, plus animals, their first two days in Houston, often working at the height of the storm.

When I later commented about the conditions they faced, he simply replied, “Grandma, you know that’s what we’re trained for. That’s our job!” And they did it well. They stayed wet for several days, taking their boat into heavily flooded areas and pulling out more people. They were transferred to the Beaumont-Port Arthur areas at the end of the week to continue operations.

At the time of this writing, I don’t know if he’s back at base. I do know when Irma lands, they’ll be back in their crafts, pulling people and animals out of harm’s way. I’m so proud of him!

Then there are the fires. We have family members throughout Oregon, Washington, northern California, and the rest of the affected states.

My grandniece, Susi, posted pictures of the Eagle Creek Fire taken from her back deck and it was like seeing last year’s flames from the middle of Mayer. This conflagration is much larger and more people are in immediate danger, as an estimated 140 hikers are trapped in the Columbia River Gorge not far from her community.

It’s a nightmarish time. She was preparing to evacuate her family and pets this morning. Hopefully, when it’s all over, she’ll have a home to return to. Four of my nieces and nephews, their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are in potential danger. We’re very concerned.

Disaster struck our community last year. The generosity of others helped those affected rebuild. Harvey, Irma and the wildfires are affecting millions. Now it’s our turn to help.

Until next time.