Last night was the first decent sleep I've had since last Thursday when I rolled out of the Texas Panhandle at 4 am to meet up with a search and rescue team waiting for me in College Station. I'm fairly certain I could use another 48 hours of sleep, but I came home to a house that smelled like dog and man farts, sink full of dishes, and laundry piled high, so sleep will have to wait. While I'm waiting for my coffee to kick in, I thought I'd put this on the proverbial paper. I wish I had more photos, but I spent 90% of my time with hands on the wheels so I wasn't able to get a lot. And I keep remembering things and going back to add, so this will be more disjointed than my usual writings. I got a call from my former MMA coach/sensei Wednesday asking me to go with his S&R team into Houston. I hadn't spoken to him in a few years, and was surprised to hear from him at all. He said they needed people, trucks, and boats, and he knew I didn't crack under pressure, so would I come? He told me that housing was arranged and food was taken care of. I told him the boat was crapped out but I'd see what I could find. Asked if I should bring camping gear, was told no. Bring tools to cut through roofs because that's how they'd been pulling people out of houses when they were in Houston the day before. I packed cordless skill saws, towels, first aid supplies, every diesel and gas can I had. Didn't know what shoes would be best so I loaded up muck boots, rain boots, sneakers, and aquasox. Grabbed some swim suits that were basically leggings and a tank top, figured if I was gonna get wet at least I'd dry out fast once I got out of the water. Wet jeans suck. (that would prove to be genius in the coming days) Packed snack packs of dried bananas, almonds, little packets of almond butter, and some carb/protien/collegen bars from Primal Kitchen, packed ziplocks for putting ID and phones in, packed bottled water. Packed first aid supplies and a gallon of Chlorhexadine (the base ingredient in Hibiclens) as well as a quart of Hibiclens since the water down there was going to be a foul soup of bacteria, fuel, sewage, and general yuk. I tried to get donations to take down. Bottled water, non perishable food, diapers, formula. No one was interested. I tried to borrow a boat or some wave runners. Suddenly everyone's was broken or they were taking it to the lake that weekend. Apparently I'm sketchier than I realized. Whatever. I pulled out at 4 am and headed down. The team I met up with reinforced something I already knew. Know the people you've got to rely on, BEFORE you have to rely on them. There were 2 teams actually, and the larger one consisted of church folk with good intentions but no clues between them. One woman had a big horse trailer, determined to rescue dogs and cats, but she was high strung and wound up. Two guys were alpha cowboys, neither in charge but both determined to be. They had 3 flatbottomed boats stacked on a trailer, only one of which had a motor, but a lot of groups were using those boats like skiffs to tow behind the bigger ones. Two other guys were just excited to be away from their wives for a few days, high on Redbull and nerves. There was a Korean guy who looked 16 but was really 35 with a family, and he quickly proved to be the only calm, reliable one of the second group. He went in my truck, and was put on comms. A former coast guard member went in the back seat to work navigation using an app called WAZE. His wife, a certified diver, took up the last seat. We made a quick run to Tomball to pick up another loaned waverunner, which was hooked onto my truck. Comms. That was a mess. No one had radios. Everything relied on cell phones, and AT&T was crap. If you had 2 bars you were ecstatic. In Houston the day prior, the team leader was communicating with some local dispatch and getting things done. However, some .gov took over that dispatch and the guy running it at that point was located in California, with zero clue about the area. Teams were being dispatched to houses that did not exist to rescue people who were never there. Teams were being told to wait for a military escort to a location, only to be left waiting for 5-6 hours, then told oh sorry, we sent someone else out and didn't bother to update you. We were sent to Port Arthur, but halfway there were told the roads going in were all shut down. There was a lot of traffic out, and a lot of cars floating in the ditches. There wasn't much of a shoulder and the ground dropped off sharp on the other side of the right line. This one guy drifted over at me and then started waving for me to get over. Wasn't interested in joining the cars floating in the ditches on the side. I could see the center line and I was staying beside it. This was outside of Crosby I think. We'd regroup, be told to go to a location, then halfway there be told not to. While waiting for another destination, we hauled a load of water to a distribution point in Nederland. The lines to get water stretched for miles. After chasing a bunch of ghosts we finally switched over to an app called Zello and started communicating with one of the Cajun Navy groups. Zello works like a CB system on your cell and is designed to work even with 2G service. It also sucks your battery dry faster than you can blink, so the phones stayed plugged into the various outlets in the truck at all times. Portable battery packs. Some of our team had them. I'm adding that to my list of things to get. Through Zello we hooked up with Tessa, who entertained me with her liberal use of f bombs and other 4 letter words which made some of the members of our team turn ten shades of red. Tessa was with the Cajun Navy with some people out of Lafayette I believe, and she and a number of other people were staged in Vidor, which had been hit by a storm surge. Off to Vidor we went. Ours were about the only vehicles heading towards Vidor. Everyone else was getting out. Between the wakes off the oncoming traffic, the headlights in my eyes, and the water being too deep to see the lines, I was driving blind at this point. I had guys hanging out either side of the truck with flashlights, calling directions to keep me between the lines.This went on forever. We stopped briefly in Bridge City to refuel, thinking we'd top off before heading into the flooded areas, but there was no fuel to be had. Every pump was shut down, everywhere. We talked to some other S&R people who told us they'd been shot at earlier in the day while down in Port Arthur. Some others that had run-ins with the Red Cross locations, donations and food and evacuees being turned away. They told us of a volunteer who arrived at a Red Cross center to find it unmanned, with buses full of wet evacuees sitting outside. She arranged to have hot meals flown in, but by the time the plane got there, the RC people had shown up and refused to let the food be distributed. Said the evacuees had been given a sandwich already. 1 sandwich in 24 hours. She'd been posting pics to FB detailing it all. IDK. I wasn't there, but plenty of others were. I got these of the shelves in the C store. We hit a roadblock about 20 miles from the staging area, state troopers who were wound up tight. East bound I10 was under water, but Tessa had told us to cut under the highway and get up on the westbound side and take it. The troopers were under the overpass and one ran out, gun drawn and yelling at us. We stopped, and our team leader tried to calmly explain we had been dispatched to hook up with the cajun navy S&R volunteers in Vidor, but he wasn't having it. Curfew was 7 to 7 and we were violating it. He wanted us to pull over and spend the night on the side of the road. We told him they were pulling people off rooftops and out of trees and needed all the rescuers they could get. He didn't care. We were violating curfew. Eventually we talked him into letting us head back home. We went a ways down the road to discuss our options. Through Zello, Tessa and another CN dispatcher named Michelle tried to deal with the state troopers, who were being problematic everywhere, as well as the Vidor PD who was supposedly arresting S&R people even as they came in with people they'd rescued. For some reason our team leader (my old coach) decided to switch places with my Korean comms guy, much to my annoyance because the Korean dude was calm and quiet whereas my old coach was jacked up on a gallon of Monster energy drinks and would NOT. SHUT. UP. Long story short, we headed back to Vidor. I ran the roadblock. The truck behind me with the high strung woman at the wheel did not and when she stopped, she trapped the truck behind her. They were forced to shut down on the side of the road until 7 am the following morning. Of our 3 trucks, 15 people, 3 boats, 3 waverunners, only 1 truck, 1 waverunner, and 4 people made it to the staging area. The two alpha boys were pissed, and decided that at 7 am they were going to take their toys and go home, even tho they were just 20 minutes behind us. To make things worse, my truck bed was loaded with relief supplies that we'd picked up before we headed out. My fuel tanks had been loaded into their truck. I had a little over a half a tank of diesel, and they had my 20 spare gallons. I asked if they were really going to run off with my fuel when we were 100+ miles from a gas station that was open. They said we could come and get it. I pointed out we couldn't leave until 7 either as we were now on lockdown in a Walmart parking lot, only leaving if a 911 call came in for a rescue. They didn't care. They signed on to save people, not sit around, and they were done. Perfect. Note to self. Never let anyone else haul my fuel. We finally met Tessa and some of the group was with. Team leader asked them where the "females could use the restroom". Everyone, myself included, just stared at him. Finally Tessa kinda laughed and said she'd just been pissing over at the car wash, but off the back of a bumper worked too. I loved Tessa. This wasn't her first aquatic rodeo. She's the one in the pink. I got this pic the next morning before everyone moved out. Under curfew, we couldn't do much. Cops were watching. The occasional 911 call came in and someone would put a boat in and check on it. At one point an Active Shooter report came in and everyone hunkered down, until Tessa came back on Zello to say one of their guys went out for people and came back with pot belly pigs. Apparently one of the pigs wouldn't let him catch it, so he finally shot the stupid thing. Someone heard the gunshots and called it in. There'd been a number of S&R people who'd been shot at by folks who didn't want to leave their flooded homes so it was a nervous relief running through when it was learned that it was only bacon. We slept in the truck. I say slept. I tried. Coast guard's wife tried. MMA Coach talked nonstop until 5:30 in the morning about nothing I cared to listen to. Around 4:30 I threw a bag of chips at him and told him to eat them and STFU so we could get some sleep. 7 am saw everyone putting boats and wave runners in. Since we only had 1 wave runner left, our energy drink addled leader quickly took it and headed out, leaving the rest of us standing at the edge of a road staring at flooded houses. I went in about waist deep for this. While we waited for monster energy drink to bring the wave runner back, we talked to people. An elderly couple put in a tiny boat and went to see what was salvageable in their home just at the edge of the waters. When they came back they told us it was all ruined. The woman pointed down the road and told me there was an RV park at the far end, and they'd begged and pleaded with the residents to leave. "They wouldn't leave, not a one of them," she told us. At the end of the road all I could see was a horizon of water with rooftops peeking above the surface. Later, after the wave runner returned and we switched out riders, our Coast guard guy went down to check. He found the park, the big 5th wheel trailers barely visible beneath the surface of the water. He came back to tell us he doubted any of them survived. He didn't need to. It was warming up, and even where I was standing I recognized the stink of dead bodies that was beginning to rise. Another man told us of being on his second story and seeing people clinging to roofs and car tops and in trees when the storm surge hit. After it passed, he went to look again and they were all gone. People in cars who never got out. People who tied themselves to boats and rafts but were washed overboard anyway. People asked for rescuers to go to their homes to retrieve their dogs, who'd been put into kennels and placed up on counter tops. Some dogs were still alive. Some dogs had panicked and flipped their kennels off of the tables and bars they were left on. It was soon apparent that things were shifting from rescue to recovery. By that afternoon the state police and national guard began rolling in, along with swift water rescue boats. Volunteers were ordered out. Vidor was shut down to residents only. I10 was shut down as well. I took these up on it, right before I turned around and went back the other way because the road ahead looked about 10 ft deep. We'd taken a few back roads to get into Vidor but they'd since gone under water. My navigator told me WAZE showed a FM road that was clear so we headed for it. It was not clear. Not. At. All. But it was the only route out so we took it. Video quality is crap because Monster Energy was recording with Facebook live and the cell coverage out there was almost non existent, but it gets better about the time I start pushing a baby tsunami wave. Once again, just seeing the yellow line under the water was cause for celebration, and at 8-10 mph this seemed to go on forever. We'd come to a shallower area, then back into the deep, but always in water. We made it back to Nederland and caught a few zzzzs before heading up to College Station. The plan was to drop everyone off, get showers and sleep, then head back down to Orange to get my gear those a-holes had taken as well as take another load of relief supplies down. This time dust masks and bug spray topped the list. People were going back into houses, and the mold was already growing. The skeeters were already taking over. This wasn't my truck, got the pic from another guy with another group. Dropped Monster Energy off, then went to the next street up and made a lefthand turn. Was almost out of the intersection when 3 teenagers in a little SUV slammed into the back edge of the truck. Somehow the water pump seized up at that same time, slinging the belt. Fun. Short version, it cost me $419 and 48 hours to get the truck back on the road. Luckily there was another S&R guy who happened to own an automotive repair shop so he opened the shop just for my truck. Took the downtime to sleep... a lot. When the truck was ready I headed back down to Orange and the coast guard guy and his wife came with. All along the way we saw streets lined with the ruined possessions of the people living there. What made the return trip so surreal was we drove through areas that were totally under water just days before. Parts of I10 that were flooded enough to drive a shrimp boat down just days earlier were now dry and covered with traffic. The sun was out, the waters were gone in many areas, it was almost as if nothing had happened. At least, until you turned into the residential sections and saw the mountains of debris and damage anyway. Military is everywhere now. I am home now, much poorer and a whole lot wiser. 1. No such thing as too much fuel. There were pumps open, selling water logged fuel. They got busted, but how many people bought that mess? 2. I should have insisted my fuel and gear go into my truck. I didn't know those guys and as things unfolded my gut feeling that they were liabilities proved correct. Sometimes my desire to not be seen as "that controlling bitch" override my desire to cover my ass, and it very nearly got me screwed this time. 3. Don't take anyone's word that "supplies will be provided". I left a lot of gear behind because I was assured it would be supplied. It wasn't. 4. Glorywhores will bust a lot of gear in hopes of making themselves look good. (lost a waverunner when 2 idiots ran off with it thinking they'd rescue half of Houston by themselves, and ended up ripping it apart running over submerged cars instead) 5. South Texas owes an unrepayable debt to the volunteers of Louisiana's Cajun Navy and Cajun Army. They saved countless lives. I've probably left out things, gotten some timeline off. I'm still exhausted and my head is killing me. I screwed up some stuff on the trip, but I must have gotten some things right because a different group of people asked if I'd be up to head to Florida. (probably just want me for my truck) Oh. One funny story that makes me look like an idiot and therefore will make you guys happy... While standing at the water's edge waiting for boats to come in, I spotted something swimming against the current. "Check it out, is that a squirrel?" I asked my new bestie, the coast guard guy's wife. "Maybe a rat?" she suggested. We moved towards it as it swum further away. "Ima get it," I told her, grinning. "Dammit I'mma save SOMETHING today. World needs more rats." Into the water I went, determined to save a rat that probably carried bubonic plague or rabies. I got right up to it and started to grab it and realized it was a damn leaf. I grabbed it and carried it back like it was a critter, just in case anyone was watching. Didn't need the story of the leaf rescue trumping the story of the pot belly pig rescue.