Ohio Task Force 1 box trucks became quasi-watercraft Monday evening when team members used them to evacuate a Katy, Texas, nursing home.
The task force worked six hours in assisting Nebraska Task Force 1 with the mission, Ohio leader Jack Reall told WHIO-TV's Gabrielle Enright. The facility was being threatened by high water.
The Nebraska team needed high-water vehicles, Reall said.
"So we took our box trucks, which carry our cargo, emptied them and carried patients in the back of them," he said.
When the mission was all said and done, the Ohio task force had ferried 80 patients and 25 staff members from Heritage Park Nursing Home.
"A lot of them were bed-ridden," Reall said. "A lot of them were not ambulatory.... It took us quite a bit of time, but we got them to a casualty collection point" where they could be transferred to other facilities.
The nursing home had electric service, Reall said, but there was no way for the staff to get in or out.
"Everybody had been there since the storm started," he said.
Ohio Task Force 1 is in the Houston area (Katy is about 30 miles west of the nation's fourth largest city) because the mission is to perform boat rescues. Hurricane-now Tropical Storm Harvey has dumped more than 30 inches of rain on the area since making landfall along the southeast Texas coast early Friday morning.
Reall said there was no way other than big vehicles to get patients and staff in or out of the nursing home.
"No ambulances could get in," he said. "If there was an emergency, there was no way to get them out."
Reall said the box truck-boat operation was a lot more efficient than trying to get the patients and staff out by actual boats.
"It was a very good use of our resources," said.
The mission wasn't without its challenges, of course.
Reall said the water is moving very fast, much faster than he and other task force members are used to seeing in Ohio.
"It's like having a river at flood stage, going through downtown," he said. All of the rescuers are having to dodge a lot of debris and obstacles they just can't see.
"I ran over a couple of curbs over there I couldn't see," Reall said. "It's pretty impressive."
-- Gabrielle Enright (@GEnrightWHIO) and Videographer Chuck Hamlin are traveling with Ohio Task Force 1.
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