As reports are rolling in about the devastation caused by Tropical Storm Harvey in Texas, there are still bright spots. Though destruction has so far left five people dead, it could have been more. A video of Hurricane Harvey flooding in Texas captures one man's nick-of-time rescue on camera, as the very TV crew who was filming it helped to save his life.
KHOU reporter Brandi Smith was reporting live on the flooding from an overpass in north Houston's beltway on Aug. 27, when she saw a tractor-trailer stuck on the road below her. The driver was trapped in the cab as the water rose rapidly, filling his cab and making his belongings float around — a clearance sign showed the height of the water as compared to the bottom of the overpass ahead, nearly 16 feet deep. Rescuers were nowhere around.
But as Smith described the situation, she saw help arriving — a sheriff's office truck towing a rescue boat coming up the road. “Here we go, we have a boat coming,” she said. “I'm going to flag these guys down and see — hold on just a second.” Still broadcasting, she ran up to the pickup truck and asked if they're heading down to the trapped driver. No, they said. They were going somewhere else.
“There's a truck driver stuck here in about 10 feet of water,” Smith told them. The pickup pulled over and prepared to put its boat in the water to go to the driver's aid.
“Sir!” Smith yelled down to the trapped driver. “There's a boat here!” Inside the cab, a man's face was just visible as he called back acknowledgement to her.
As Smith turned back to the camera, a rescuer explained to her that only last year, a truck driver died in the same spot, also during heavy flooding. He said,
Same location, 18-wheeler. He didn't know it was as deep as it was, but it was on the flip side of the freeway and we had to go dive for him because he passed away and went underwater.
As rescuers prepared to launch their boat, Smith got emotional about the terror of the situation. "I cannot imagine how terrifying it would be to be stuck right there, right now," she said, her voice breaking slightly. "Put yourself in that place. Your car is filling with water. Help is on the way, he is incredibly lucky.”
As Smith watched the rescue, she wasn't aware that she had been knocked off the air.
Her colleagues at the KHOU station were being forced to evacuate as water filled the station.
Smith and her photographer, Mario Sandoval, continued filming until their camera ran out of battery.
In a Facebook post after the rescue, Smith shared the video of the rescue itself, which takes place around the 4:40 mark.
In the post, she wrote,
As many of you know, KHOU 11 News was evacuated due to flooding. That meant my photographer Mario and I were the only ones left on air for ... well ... I don't even know how long. The #KHOU11 signal cut out just as Harris County Sheriff's Office crews got their rescue boat in the water to pull a semi driver out of his flooded cab. I've had SO many people asking if he made it out OK and I wanted to share the video. (We kept going and rolling until the camera's battery died, not knowing we'd been knocked off the air.) They pull him out around the 4:40 mark. THANK GOD for that crew.
The final video showed the moment when rescuers successfully pulled the man, named Robert, out of his truck via the passenger window, and ferried him to dry land.
"Sir, thank god you're OK," Smith said. "How does it feel to be on dry land?"
"Wonderful, wonderful," the driver said. "I just thank god that you guys was right here to get me and put me back on land safely. I just appreciate you."
An emotional Smith replied," this is going to sound weird, but can I hug you? I'm so happy you're OK."
The effects of Harvey are "unprecedented."
In a Sunday morning tweet, The National Weather Service said that the impacts of the storm "are unknown & beyond anything experienced." The storm, which was downgraded to a tropical storm on Saturday Aug. 26, is expected to drop another 15-25 inches of rainfall over the middle and upper Texas coast through Friday Sep. 1, according to The New York Times, with certain areas getting up to 50 inches. At least five people have died, and more than 1,000 high-water rescues have been completed since the storm made landfall on Friday night.
Officials in the area are asking the public for contributions of boats and high-water vehicles, which authorities said are "desperately" needed. If you're not in the area but want to help, you can also contribute to the Red Cross, or The Salvation Army, both of which are working to help Harvey victims. For those left without shelter, AirBnB is also waving service fees for those affected by Harvey.