'Painstaking' Rescue Operations Continue in Tex.


'Painstaking' Rescue Operations Continue in Tex.

News Aug 31, 2017

Aug. 30—ROCKPORT—The process to find people who may be trapped under rubble and debris is "long, painstaking and tragic," Rockport Mayor C.J. Wax said.

Texas Task Force 1 was relocated Monday to the Houston area, but search-and-rescue efforts still were underway by late Tuesday.

The task force did not dig through rubble or debris to find people, Wax said, but city, county, state and federal work crews have been doing so since Sunday.

By 2 p.m. Tuesday, 42 more people had been evacuated out of their Aransas County homes, County Judge Burt Mills said. On Monday, officials said 10 had been evacuated.

There was one confirmed fatality, which Wax called a miracle.

"That doesn't mean the total will not climb as you start to get through rubble," Wax said. "As of today, there is only one."

Mills and Wax dispelled rumors that multiple people were found dead in Rockport or Fulton.

"That is not the truth," Wax said. "The Justice of the Peace who declares that works for us right in there (Aransas County emergency operations center) says it's one."

Officials said there have been no reports of missing people, but acknowledged their perfect system isn't perfect.

"On the tragic side, if the husband and wife are still in the house and both are deceased because they're under rubble, neither can report the other missing," Wax said. "Unless cousin Mary in Dallas is trying to call and get in touch and can't get an answer, which you can't get an answer any way because there no are cellphones or landlines... Today, nobody has called us and said 'Mary is missing.' "

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Before leaving town, the task force completed its assessment of facilities across the county.

Eighty percent of buildings have at least minor damage in Aransas County, Mills said. Roughly 30-35 percent have extreme damage or are destroyed.

"Copano Cove was devastated by storm surge," he said. "Key Allegro is pretty much devastated by tornadoes and winds. This storm created a lot of tornadoes."

In Fulton, a double-wide trailer home was pushed more than 200 yards during the storm, which was at category 4 intensity when it hit town. People were inside and survived, Mills said.

State animal control services were in Rockport and Fulton trying to handle the area's stray animal population and pets that were left behind.

"Animals continue to be a problem," said Billy Terry, a spokesperson for the county EOC, on Monday. "A lot of people abandoned their animals and left them in the houses."

Mills said state animal control will help take care of animals that are found safely—this refers to horses, cows, dogs and cats. A veterinarian has come to the city to treat animals before they are bused out of town.

Mills did not know where the animals are being evacuated.

Running water could be fully restored to the town in the next few days, but it will be under an indefinite water boil notice.

"We are segmenting the water system and loading it with a gravity feed from our tanks," Wax said. "We're looking for a catastrophic leak."

It will be at least 3-4 weeks before power is restored. Officials are still asking residents not to return, and are continuing to bus people who are now choosing to evacuate.

Officials ask that people view their property damage, take photos and leave before the 7 p.m. curfew.

The American Red Cross, the H-E-B Disaster Response Unit and volunteer groups have arrived in full-force. Red Cross is continuing to assess areas with the strongest need before setting up recovery stations.

Church Unlimited from Corpus Christi has set up at a location on Main Street with supplies and hot meals. H-E-B will hand out hot meals, water, ice and bread for breakfast, lunch and dinner until at least Thursday, said Clay Bridges, H-E-B disaster response unit director.

Volunteers from Corpus Christi, Alice, San Antonio are streaming in to help with supplies, food and any support they can offer.

John Sanchez, of Corpus Christi, and his friends and family raised nearly $950 for ingredients to buy sodas, water, flour tortillas and chicken to make chicken tacos and pico de gallo.

The group set up a barbecue pit a block from the Rockport Police Department, also the county's EOC. They gave out about 400 chicken tacos to first responders and residents.

"We're doing this for the first responders here in Rockport. Everybody here is from Alice and Corpus (Christi)—we're all friends and family that decided to come out and help how we could," Sanchez said. "We plan on coming back in a few weeks."

Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Texas
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