When Hurricane Harvey brought severe flooding to Houston, overwhelmed local officials called on boat-owning residents to help out.
Hugo Elizondo heeded the call. On Monday, the 31-year-old electrician set out from his Tomball home in northwestern Harris County with his fishing boat and a friend and headed 14 miles south just east of Cypress, where streets swamped with water trapped frightened people in need of rescuing.
Large swaths of the Houston area were inundated Monday. Flooding made impassable several country and inner city roads, as well as parts of some interstates.
Water in the Ravensway neighborhood, near U.S. 290 and Huffmeister Road, was more than knee-deep. People on ATVs and trucks could be seen driving through high water in the surrounding streets near where Cypress Creek has topped its banks. Some used their vehicles to drag other vehicles out of water.
“I’m just trying to help as much as I can,” Elizondo said before hopping in his boat and entering Ravensway with his friend, 29-year-old Thomas Luna.
Elizondo blew a whistle to get people’s attention.
“You doing OK?” Elizondo yelled to a woman standing in front of her door. She nodded and said she would remain at her house.
Nearby, Elizondo and Luna found 78-year-old Bobby Nelson standing in front of his garage in water that covered his ankles.
Nelson said he was waiting for someone to rescue him since Monday morning. Inside Nelson’s home, a couple of inches of water covered the floor. Small rugs and other belongings were floating.
Rain is expected to continue in the Houston area for the next few days, as what remains of Hurricane Harvey hovers on the Texas Coast.
“I’m expecting this to get worse,” said Nelson, who has lived alone since his wife died years ago.
Luna, grabbing two black suitcases Nelson had packed, told him, “We have your ride waiting for you.”
Nelson had to wade out to the where the boat waited. The water was frigid. The wind howled and still the rain poured down. Luna and Elizondo pulled Nelson onto the boat and continued on.
One woman flagged them down, waving her arms outside of her front door. They pushed the boat to the white-bricked home, where 67-year-old Maggie David and her husband, 64-year-old David Emswiler, waited for help.
“Y’all are a blessing,” David told Elizondo and Luna. Her face reddened. Her eyes welled with tears.
Emswiler, carrying a stuffed backpack, used a cane and to make it to the boat.
“I’ve had enough of this,” David said. “I’ve lived here 32 years, and it’s never flooded this bad. The water was up yesterday, but it got this bad today. We heard it’s getting worse — that’s why we got out.
“I’d be scared to death without them (Elizondo and Luna). I’m scared for this whole area,” she said.
Elizondo and Luna took their evacuees to the entrance of the neighborhood where David, Emswiler and Nelson stepped into a pickup truck that would take them to the North Cypress Medical Center, which was taking in storm victims who needed medical attention.
As of Monday afternoon, authorities had opened more than 40 shelters across the Houston metro area.
Elizondo and Luna grabbed their boat and headed back toward Ravensway. On the way, they passed another fishing boat with other volunteers who had come to help with rescues.