Ohio rescue group evacuates more than 130 from Texas flooding

Members of Ohio Task Force 1 evacuates people from an apartment complex who were trapped by rising waters in the Houston area on Tuesday. Many of the Kettering-based task force s members are from southwest Ohio. CHUCK HAMLIN/STAFF
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Members of Ohio Task Force 1 evacuates people from an apartment complex who were trapped by rising waters in the Houston area on Tuesday. Many of the Kettering-based task force s members are from southwest Ohio. CHUCK HAMLIN/STAFF

Local Churches of Christ volunteers could be helping clean up, rebuild for more than a year.

Years of rescue and medical training proved invaluable for a Kettering-based disaster response team and a lifesaver for Houston-area residents cut off by flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey.

Ohio Task Force 1 evacuated more than 130 people — including 82 nursing home patients — Monday night and Tuesday, earning the appreciation of Texans receiving the help.

As the wind whipped Ohio Task Force 1 members Tuesday, they maneuvered rescue boats past submerged cars on Dairy Ashford Road in Houston to stranded residents, including about 50 in an apartment complex.

“They’re good. They helped me. They got me a boat across,” said Ronnie Jones, wiping the never-ending rain off his face. “My car’s flooded. They really did a lot for me.”

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Members of Ohio Task Force 1 brought Ronnie Jones of Houston out of his neighborhood by boat on Tuesday. "They really did a lot for me," Jones said. CHUCK HAMLIN / STAFF

Members of Ohio Task Force 1 brought Ronnie Jones of Houston out of his neighborhood by boat on Tuesday. "They really did a lot for me," Jones said. CHUCK HAMLIN / STAFF
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Members of Ohio Task Force 1 brought Ronnie Jones of Houston out of his neighborhood by boat on Tuesday. "They really did a lot for me," Jones said. CHUCK HAMLIN / STAFF

By mid-afternoon Tuesday, the team had ferried Jones, 34 other people and 15 animals across the stretch of water.

The day before, the team moved 82 patients from a nursing home to a casualty collection point so they could be transferred to other facilities and reunited with families.

“Everybody had been there since the storm started,” said Jack Reall, Ohio team leader. “A lot of them were bed-ridden … A lot of them were not ambulatory… It took us quite a bit of time.”

With help from another unit from Nebraska, the teams traded boats for high-sitting box trucks for the evacuation that also included 25 staff members of the Heritage Park Nursing Home in Katy, Texas.

Reall said the big vehicles were the only option.

“No ambulances could get in,” he said. “If there was an emergency, there was no way to get them out.”

The box truck operation was more efficient than using boats, but like boats, the trucks still faced strong currents in the floodwaters, Reall said.

“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.”

Nearly 35 percent of Ohio Task Force 1 members in Texas to assist with search and rescue missions are from Miami Valley fire departments.

The Dayton Fire Department has the most locally on the task force with four members. Kettering, West Chester Twp. and Huber Heights fire departments have two members each on the ground in Texas.

Miami Valley help

Volunteers from the locally-based Churches of Christ Disaster Response Team are already on the way to Texas to help people clean up and rebuild in a region devastated by Hurricane Harvey.

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Mark Cremeans, left, co-director of the Churches of Christ Disaster Response Team, and volunteer Jim Mong of Columbiana route a path to Portland, Texas, where the group will assist rebuilding efforts following Hurricane Harvey. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF

Mark Cremeans, left, co-director of the Churches of Christ Disaster Response Team, and volunteer Jim Mong of Columbiana route a path to Portland, Texas, where the group will assist rebuilding efforts following Hurricane Harvey. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF
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Mark Cremeans, left, co-director of the Churches of Christ Disaster Response Team, and volunteer Jim Mong of Columbiana route a path to Portland, Texas, where the group will assist rebuilding efforts following Hurricane Harvey. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF

More members of the group prepared to leave Tuesday morning bound for Portland, Texas, towing a disaster supply trailer filled with chainsaws, rakes, generators, tarps and other supplies.

“We go out and clean up the area and help people who don’t have insurance,” said Mark Cremeans, who is co-director of the church’s national team with his wife, Laura.

“We can help them rebuild — or at least help them as much as we can,” he said.

A shower trailer that also contains a clothes washer and dryer made it on the road Monday night.

The group departing from Tipp City will meet up in Texas with up to 500 church volunteers from across the country answering the call to help.

Cremeans said Portland, north across the bay from Corpus Christi, received more wind than rain damage from the Category 4 hurricane.

In the next days, the team will also be taking a 30-foot portable kitchen capable of feeding more than 4,000 meals a day and a semi trailer Cremeans called a “little Lowe’s” filled with tools for the volunteers to use during the rebuilding process.

Cremeans said the volunteers could be in Texas a year or more.

Red Cross mobilizes more

“The word of the week is ‘unprecedented,’” said Cory Paul, executive director of the Dayton-Area Chapter of the American Red Cross. “By looking at the data we are collecting, the amount and size and scope of the flooding … translates to us knowing that there is a very large need.”

Paul said the number of southwest Ohio volunteers in the disaster zone has doubled to more than a dozen, with at least two more scheduled to leave in the coming days.

The volunteers on the ground in Texas are doing everything from helping set up shelters to computer networks to delivering bulk supplies to making meals, Paul said.

About two-thirds of current area Red Cross volunteers work in disaster cycle services, he said. Many more are calling to help, but Paul cautions that new volunteers must have training and local experience before being sent to assist on a large natural disaster like Harvey.

Bottled water needed

The Dayton Foodbank and Sinclair Community College are teaming up to collect donations of cases of bottled water for Harvey victims. The cases will be collected at The Foodbank’s warehouse and at Sinclair’s downtown campus.

“For the people who are there, this is an emergency,” said Michelle Riley, Dayton Foodbank CEO.

Riley said as soon as 22 skids are collected, enough to fill a semi, a truck will be on the road. Collections are scheduled through 2 p.m. Friday.

Ohioans have been generous in supporting victims of past disasters, and many are again asking how they can help, Riley said.

“When people get their heartstrings tugged, it’s important to coordinate that as fast as possible,” she said.

Sinclair President Steve Johnson encouraged the community college’s students, faculty, staff and neighbors to support the effort.

“Our hearts go out to the people of Houston impacted by this disaster,” Johnson said. “Sinclair is all about people coming together to support the resolution of local and global challenges.”


How to donate water

Commercially-bottled water accepted only in case-sized packaging.

The Foodbank

56 Armor Place, Dayton, OH 45417

Through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sinclair Community College

444 West Third Street, Dayton, OH 45402

Building 12, Ponitz Conference Center

Perry Street Circular Driveway – Drive up and drop off

Tuesday, 4-6 p.m.

Wednesday through Thursday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., 4-6 p.m.

Friday, 8 a.m. to noon

Local members of Ohio Task Force 1:

Troy Bonfield, Medical Specialist, West Chester Twp.

Brandon Fraley, Rescue Specialist, Huber Heights

Trevor Frodge, HazMat Specialist, West Chester Twp.

Kevin Ganger, Ground Support Specialist, Piqua

J. Nicholas Kuntz, Rescue Specialist, Huber Heights

Joseph Landis, Rescue Specialist, Dayton

Matt Maurer, Team Manager, City of Clayton

David Oakley, HazMat Specialist, Hamilton

Richard Olszewski, Extra Personnel, Dayton

Scott Perkins, Medical Specialist, Kettering

Brian Petry, Technical Search Specialist, Clearcreek Twp.

Patrick Ricketts, Ground Support Specialist, Fairborn

Glenn Schlub, HazMat Specialist, Kettering

Kevin Shea, Extra Personnel, Dayton

Todd Shiverdecker, Ground Support Specialist, Dayton

Jeffrey Turner, HazMat Specialist, WPAFB

Joshua VanDyne, Logistics Specialist, Xenia

Exclusive coverage: WHIO TV reporter Gabrielle Enright and photojournalist Chuck Hamlin will bring you live coverage from Texas on Hurricane Harvey beginning 8 a.m. today and throughout the week on NewsCenter 7.

On air: Hear updates on Hurricane Harvey during locally anchored newscasts today on AM 1290 and News 95.7 WHIO.

Online: For breaking news, download our Dayton Daily News apps for the iPhone and Android either at the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Cox donates $100,000 to hurricane relief

The James M. Cox Foundation will make a $100,000 grant to the American Red Cross for hurricane relief in the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s devastating impact on Texas.

Jim Kennedy, chairman of Cox Enterprises, announced the donation Tuesday in a message to employees in which he also urged employees to support hurricane victims however they can.

Cox Enterprises is the parent company of WHIO-TV and radio, the Dayton Daily News, Springfield News-Sun and the JournalNews of Butler County.

The company’s founder, James M. Cox, was instrumental in southwest Ohio’s recovery from a devastating 1913 flood in Dayton, Hamilton and other communities.

“Beginning with my grandfather and through the generations, Cox has always supported the people and places where we do business,” Kennedy wrote.

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