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East Texas couple helps rescue Houston flood victims

By Scott Brunner
Aug. 30, 2017 at 12:39 a.m.
Updated Aug. 30, 2017 at 11:43 a.m.

Diana residents Kameron Brown and Chris Pilgrim went to Houston Monday and Tuesday to help rescue people affected by flooding and the remains of Hurricane Harvey.

A Diana woman says she and her boyfriend rescued about 50 people in Houston after making a nearly spur-of-the-moment decision to head south and help those stranded by still-rising floodwaters caused by Harvey.

"We were listening to some of the stories and reading on Facebook, and it was devastating," Kameron Brown said Tuesday while driving through steady rain on the return trip to East Texas. "We decided to lend a hand when we could."

On Monday, Brown and boyfriend Chris Pilgrim drove a truck along with a flat-bottom boat, two cases of water, extra gas and sandwiches to the Houston area.

They used the boat to help ferry stranded residents from wherever they found them to gathering spots.

Listening to radio traffic that included information from the Cajun Navy and having acquaintances already in the area to assist helped Brown and Pilgrim figure out where to position themselves to put their boat to good use.

The pair wound up in a part of northeast Houston not far from C.E. King High School, and they launched the boat from a railroad track.

They then got around with the help of a Houston man who offered to use his familiarity with the area to assist in navigating around the low spots, and it didn't take long before they found people who were in need of rescuing.

"There was like 10 people right around our boat as soon as we got there," she said. Those people told Brown and Pilgrim where they still had family who needed help.

RELATED: How you can help with the Harvey relief effort

Brown estimates the pair helped rescue about 50 people — not included in the tally was at least one dog and a turtle.

After hearing about flood conditions, Brown said what they saw met their expectations that it would be devastating.

She said they found people who had walked away from their homes as the water rose who were carrying children on their backs — some of them only carried a trash bag or two of belongings.

"And to think that everything they had was gone at that point," Brown said.

Though the pair went planning to help others, they also met a man who helped them.

They had left with nowhere to stay Monday night and would have slept in their vehicle had it not been for a man who — along with his wife — took them in for the night and fed them.

Brown and Pilgrim were among many who heeded a call by Harris County Judge Ed Emmett asking for members of the public who have boats or high-water vehicles to help with efforts to rescue Houston residents whose homes had flooded.

Emmett said at a news conference Sunday that additional boats and vehicles that Texas is sending to the Houston area were not able to get to the area due to flooded roadways, according to the Associated Press.

RELATED: East Texans wait, hope as loved ones cope with Harvey

The county judge since has said residents with boats are no longer needed for rescue operations.

A significant amount of Houston, however, remains under water. Meteorologist Jeff Lindner with the Harris County Flood Control District said between 20 and 30 percent of Harris County was under water as of Tuesday afternoon. That amounts to an area larger than the city of Austin.

Shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said his agency had responded to more than 1,000 calls for service — including 400 water rescues — since Harvey inundated much of the city, the AP reported.

The storm has generated rain in the "greatest amount ever recorded from a tropical weather system in the Lower 48 states," according to Chron.com, with nearly 50 inches reported in some parts of Houston.

Though an issue with their boat meant Brown and Pilgrim had to cut their rescue mission short, Brown said the experience was positive.

"We didn't run into anybody that had any bad intentions," she said. "I was really pleased with that."

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