Local Coast Guard officer reflects on Hurricane Harvey relief effort

Coast Guard officer recalls Harvey relief effort

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- In late August, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas as a Category 4 hurricane, bringing widespread flooding to Houston and the surrounding area.

As the storm threatened Texas, the U.S. Coast Guard’s Sector Ohio Valley, headquartered in Louisville, loaded up 16-foot, War Eagle boats in trailers and headed down. The low, flat boats are specially equipped to handle flooding conditions and it was Sector Ohio Valley’s mission to conduct search and rescue operations in flooded subdivisions south of Houston.

Petty Officer First Class Daniel Gallo says that even with the experience the Coast Guard has, the amount of water Harvey brought to Houston was a shock.

“We were prepared for a lot of water and we knew that we would be running these boats in places they wouldn’t normally be, but in terms of how high the water got on people’s streets, in front of their houses--that was pretty amazing to look at. Even when we got people out of their homes and into these boats, when we would turn the corner of their street and they could see the rest of their subdivision, it was a big awe factor. It was, it was shocking,“ Gallo said.

Members of Sector Ohio Valley rescued nearly 500 people through the course of their work in Houston, but one rescue in particular has stuck in Gallo’s mind--when they helped over 100 residents of  a nursing home in Port Arthur, Texas escape their flooded building.

“When we got to the nursing home itself there was already water inside the building. There were plenty of first responders in there helping people get out. So this was a lady, Genevieve is her name, and we had room for a bed and some of the residents in there had to be transported on a bed and she didn’t let go of my hand until we got her to dry land and onto a truck that was taking them to the hospital,” Gallo said.

Gallo says that while in the moment he was focused on performing his duty, at the end of the day the opportunity to help those in need is really what it’s all about.

“It feels great to provide that kind of comfort to somebody that’s in a crisis situation…It’s very gratifying to help somebody that’s scared and I feel like I was happy to provide her a lot of comfort and she felt safe.”

While Sector Ohio Valley was part of the official military response to Hurricane Harvey, Gallo says what stuck with him the most over the course of their 12 days in the Houston area were the efforts of civilians lending a hand to their fellow Americans anyway they could.

“As a whole, the positivity that I saw and all the people willing to participate saving lives and helping people in a crisis, it was excellent, you know, it was a big team effort, big team effort. That’s a big thing in the Coast Guard that we’re all about--the team.”

© 2017 WHAS-TV


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