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The Unsung: Strangers helping strangers during Hurricane Harvey

Allen Wastler

Posted on December 15, 2017

Allen Wastler is a former financial journalist with over 30-years of experience, including time at CNBC, CNN, and Knight-Ridder Newspapers.
Man on trailer passing a gas can to a person standing in a pickup truck's bed

Hurricane Harvey hit and devastating, dangerous flood waters rose … but so did people’s support for one another. And the strength that came from that support helped many weather the storm.

“When that hurricane hit, the entire community came together as a whole,” said Greg Woods, a volunteer in rescue efforts, told MassMutual. “No one knew or thought that they were going to do this before it happened, and everyone just did it. …We’re all people and we all want to help each other.”

A Category 4 hurricane, Harvey dumped more than four feet of rain on Texas, mostly in the Houston area. More than 200,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. And over 122,000 rescues took place.

Teens and sportsmen used fishing boats to rescue people trapped in flooded neighborhoods. Monster trucks and trucks equipped with snorkels patrolled highways to pull stranded vehicles out of the water. The tech savvy created social media networks and websites to coordinate help and rescues.

Aiding in those rescues were people like Austin and Nathan Seth.

“The first day we went up to Houston we were responding to a Facebook post just asking for help,” Austin, a college student in Galveston, told MassMutual. “And our first thoughts were ‘you know, we aren’t doing anything, we’ve got a boat, and if they need some help, we’ll go help.’”

The Seth brothers hooked up their boat and traveled 40 miles to a rescue command center. They joined other volunteers and began patrolling flooded neighborhoods in their boat looking for people that needed transport to higher ground.

“I don’t even know how they showed up,” Delmar Critchfield, one of those picked up by the Seths, said in an interview. “… When people come together like that to help each other out, the quality of the people … it’s like the cream coming to the top.”

Many people risked their safety to help complete strangers because they felt it could have just as easily been them. Indeed, the Seth brothers’ hometown was threatened by flood waters shortly after their efforts in Houston.

“It was cool, later that week, seeing the same sort of people that we were helping out, come help us with building a dam and other things around our neighborhood,” Nathan told MassMutual. “So it's kind of a neighbor helping a neighbor out, and then that same neighbor helping you out later on.”

"People from all walks of life came together for one cause, and that’s to help a neighbor out,” added Austin. “There were just miraculous things going on in the Houston area over that week."

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