First responders head to Houston

By Traci Chapman
Staff Writer

A Mustang firefighter is among dozens of area first responders and volunteers lending their hand to Texas residents dealing with the overwhelming impact of Hurricane Harvey.

Mustang Fire Cpt. Craig Carruth traveled Monday to Houston as part of Oklahoma Urban Search and Rescue Task Force One.

“Cpt. Carruth will be assisting in search and rescue efforts for the next seven to 14 days,” Fire Chief Carl Hickman said.

OK-TF1 Region 8 group spent the night at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. They are now en route to College Station to receive their assignment.

Including Carruth, TF1 is comprised of 16 members from departments across the Oklahoma City metropolitan area – nine from Oklahoma City Fire Department, two each from Norman and Edmond fire departments and two from Oklahoma City Police Department. The crew will assist in swiftwater rescues after partnering with Oklahoma water rescue teams from Coal and Pittsburgh counties and Tulsa Metro OK-TF 1. The teams initially will headquarter in Katy, Texas, OCFD officials said Monday.

Troopers with Oklahoma Highway Patrol also traveled to the area Monday, taking along with them two air boats to help with rescue efforts.

An unprecedented event

With rain expected to continue through Wednesday, Hurricane Harvey has already killed 10 people and injured hundreds more, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said. The National Weather Service said Monday parts of Harris County – which includes Houston, the country’s fourth-largest city – have received more than 30 inches of rain already.

“We are looking at the possibility of perhaps more than 50 inches of rain,” NWS officials said Monday. “This event is unprecedented; all impacts are unknown and beyond anything ever before experienced.”

At this point, it is not known how many have lost their homes or even the number temporarily because of the ongoing storm and the vast area it covers, Acevedo said. With local first responders and volunteers completely inundated, those who are still trapped, are homeless or who have lost everything are grateful for those who are traveling to Texas and are stepping in to help.

“Our gratitude is beyond measure,” Acevedo said. “None of us have ever seen anything like this – not the devastation or the outpouring of help and support.”

Salvation Army onsite

Central Oklahoma Area Command of The Salvation Army is also on hand, setting up at the Incident Command Center in Corpus Christi, development director Traci Jinkens said.

“Kenny Kelly, emergency disaster services coordinator for the Central Oklahoma Area Command, will serve as canteen coordinator for The Salvation Army’s ongoing disaster response operations,” Jinkens said. “The canteen is a mobile feeding unit, and Mr. Kelly will manage its overall operations to meet the needs of victims and first responders in the Corpus Christi area.”

Jinkens said several commands across Oklahoma and Arkansas are deploying a total 42 mobile kitchens to the area, and Salvation Army volunteers have water, food, shelter and cleaning supplies staged and ready to go to affected areas.

How to help

For those who want to help through a Salvation Army donation, go online to www.helpsalvationarmy.org, call 1-800-725-2769 or text STORM to 51555, which will provide a link for mobile donations. Red Cross contributions can be made by going online to www.redcross.org/donate and selecting “Hurricane Harvey.”

Another immediate need for those impacted by the hurricane is blood, Oklahoma Blood Institute officials said. OBI has already shipped 300 units of blood and 25 of platelets to affected areas, but Texas authorities have requested another 400 units as soon as possible, said Heather Browne, OBI marketing and media manager.

“Blood centers in Houston and other affected areas haven’t been able to collect blood, and the issue is transporting blood to hospitals in the region,” Browne said. “OBI is working with a Dallas-based blood center to help transport blood to hospitals and patients in need.”

While blood and platelets may be donated at area OBI donor centers in Oklahoma City, Edmond and Norman, there may be an easier way for local residents, Browne said. Mustang and Yukon Lowe’s just happen to be holding their annual Bedlam blood drive on Friday, Sept. 1.

“It’s just a great coincidence this is going on now,” Browne said. “This is a wonderful way to help our efforts and help those in Texas who need us.”

Mustang Lowe’s will hold its blood collection effort from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. While donations will be made inside OBI’s bloodmobile, officials asked anyone interested in donating to sign up inside Lowe’s at the customer service desk.

The bloodmobile will also be at Lowe’s in Yukon Friday, from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m. Anyone interested can just proceed to the bloodmobile.

For more information about OBI or donating blood, go online to www.obi.org or call 1-877-340-8777.

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