The perfect flood rescue tool
Annandale resident uses jet boat to help flood victims in Houston area following Hurricane Harvey
By Ed DuBois
A low-profile jet boat was the perfect tool to get in and help flood victims in Texas, and Bill Walker had one. He and a friend volunteered to conduct welfare checks in the Houston area following Hurricane Harvey and subsequent massive flooding.
The owner of three Invest Cast Inc. foundries in Minneapolis, Wisconsin and Dallas, Walker has homes in Annandale, Minn. and just east of Dallas. His company performs casting and parts making for manufacturing companies, and some of their customers include: Polaris, Harley-Davidson, Maytag, and John Deere, he said.
Walker's watercraft is a 250-hp RiverPro jet boat, which he enjoys using for fishing on the Mississippi River.
Trouble with outboards
Down in the flooded areas around Houston, people in boats with outboard motors were having all kinds of trouble, Walker said by telephone last week. The water was not very deep in some places, and their props were striking curbs and objects. Meanwhile, the jet boat was gliding along the surface with no problems.
"We checked hundreds of homes," Walker said. "We went up and down the streets in neighborhood after neighborhood."
He estimated the depth of the water ranged from 2-6 feet.
"We found and moved about a dozen people," Walker said. "We also moved belongings, making several trips to each location."
He recalled an elderly couple who could barely walk and had medical issues. They were helped into the boat and taken to safety and care. They had about three feet of water in their home.
Helped in Vidor, Texas
Walker said the neighborhoods were literally saturated with people in boats offering help.
When he decided to volunteer, Walker drove to Vidor Fire and Rescue, which is located east of Houston. He helped in the area from Wednesday to Friday, Aug. 30 to Sept. 1.
"We were wrapping it up on Friday. Law enforcement boats were arriving from just about every state. They were checking all the homes (to make sure everyone was out)," Walker said.
He mentioned some of the law enforcement boats came all the way from Alaska.
"It was humanity at it's finest," Walker commented.
Never seen before
At various times in the past, he has helped people having trouble on the water, "but the scope of this disaster is incredible," he stated.
He was told in Vidor they had never seen such massive flooding ever before.
Walker recalled seeing an Interstate 10 overpass underwater.
With the help of business associates, he was able to bring supplies, such as food, blankets and a pallet of bottled water to Vidor.
The entire Houston area was still recovering when news arrived about another extremely large and powerful storm, Hurricane Irma, which was forming in the Atlantic Ocean and heading toward Miami. Meanwhile, Hurricane Jose was following Irma, and Hurricane Katia was gaining strength in the Gulf of Mexico.
Walker was glad he had the perfect tool to help after Hurricane Harvey. Hopefully, his services won't be needed again real soon.
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