After Hurricane Harvey smacked into the Texas Gulf Coast in late August, the storm lingered for days, causing massive floods that left people stranded in homes awaiting rescue.
Overwhelmed members of the National Guard were quickly joined by a fleet of good Samaritans with boats who began launching vessels from highway ramps and helping to pluck people from buildings.
The 63rd Houston International Boat, Sport and Travel Show is kicking off with a special ceremony to honor “Hurricane Harvey Boat Heroes,” the boaters who put their lives at risk to help rescue thousands of Texans from rising floodwaters.
“We look forward to recognizing the many citizens who, at their own peril, came to the rescue of countless Texans during Hurricane Harvey — a disaster that caused an unprecedented amount of damage through its many days of flooding,” Houston Boat Show president Ken Lovell told Trade Only Today in an email.
Kyle Holmes, one of the rescuers who spoke with Trade Only immediately after one of the early days of rescues, will be among those honored at the event, which is set for Friday from 12:30 to 1 p.m. at the NRG Center, said spokeswoman Lisa Dimond Vasquez.
“Really, literally people were screaming at you for help from every direction,” Holmes said, speaking to Trade Only on his way home, still drenched after 11 hours of rescues. “It was like a horror movie.”
“Babies with formula and people with medications — everything you can imagine was to be seen yesterday,” Holmes said on Aug. 28, the second day that emergency personnel and boaters scrambled to rescue people from rising floodwaters. “Most of the streets were basically like rivers with the current. You saw 10-year-old kids holding on to stop signs with life jackets yelling for help.”
“These Hurricane Harvey Boat Heroes, including the heroes who will be recognized Friday, helped in many different ways, whether it was with manpower — bringing their own boats and endangering their lives to rescue others — or by donating boats, engines and service to the boats that were put through the test on the dangerous floodwaters,” Lovell said.
“You can’t put it into perspective,” Yamaha Pro Fishing staff member Dwayne Eschete told Trade Only from his boat Aug. 30 as floodwaters continued to swell in some areas. “Even being here and being in the middle of it, you can’t put into perspective the true sense of lives that would’ve been lost if it wasn’t for neighbor helping neighbor.”
Eschete, who also had done rescues after hurricanes Katrina and Ike, was among many who helped long afterward, cooking meals for those most affected.
Marine companies also pitched in, with Lowe Boats dispatching Roughneck aluminum fishing boats, Suzuki sending engines and ATVs, and Evinrude cobbling together some pump-jet outboards.
So vast was the network of citizens and companies that helped, the Boating Trades Association of Metropolitan Houston is asking for the public’s help in identifying them.
“We are so thankful for our Hurricane Harvey Boat Heroes,” Lovell said. “Friday we will recognize 18 boat heroes, and we want as many as possible to be recognized, so we are asking the public to help identify more boat heroes by posting pictures and stories on social media with hashtag #boatheroes.”
Participating in the event will be Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis and Bob Johnson, president of the Boating Trades Association of Metropolitan Houston.
Boat owner Suzi Hanks of the “Dean and Rog Morning Show” on radio station 107.5 in Houston will emcee the event.