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Mass. volunteers help residents in storm-ravaged southern Texas

Two people ran down a section of Interstate 610 flooded by Harvey on Sunday in Houston.
Two people ran down a section of Interstate 610 flooded by Harvey on Sunday in Houston.Associated Press

A Brockton man was among the volunteers helping to shelter weary residents Sunday in hotel ballrooms in Corpus Christi, a Texas city mostly without power and drinkable water.

As damaging winds receded, coastal residents in Texas were returning to find their hometowns in pieces. Brockton resident Andrew Enos is one of scores of Red Cross volunteers working in shelters in the southern part of the state.

“We’re just opening more shelters as people go home and realize that their homes aren’t there anymore,” Enos said.

Corpus Christi, where Enos was stationed Sunday, was one of the areas most severely damaged when Harvey made landfall Friday night as a category 4 hurricane. Enos said most of the city had no power or drinking water. “Everything has to be boiled,” he said.

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Enos and about 25 other volunteer shelter workers were headquartered at a Holiday Inn in Corpus Christi, where ballrooms were transformed into shelters for volunteers and returning residents.

“I think people are just now starting to return,” Enos said Sunday. “Yesterday, a few people started to return, and today, that’s why we have to start opening shelters.”

Enos arrived in Corpus Christi late Saturday night after working all day in Yorktown, where about 15 residents were housed in a shelter Friday night and most damage consisted of downed trees and debris littering the streets.

The Corpus Christi shelter is expected to be much busier in coming weeks.

“I’m here for two weeks, but depending on the situation, when two weeks comes up, I might extend my deployment,” Enos said.

Just under 200 miles away, Robert Picard of Brookline was working at Red Cross headquarters in southwest Houston as the Mass Care lead for the area stretching from Corpus Christi to the Louisiana border

“Underneath me, we run shelters, we run all the feedings in the shelters and outside the shelters, and we do cleanup and have other supplies we give to people, as well,” Picard said.

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Picard arrived in Houston Friday with the first wave of disaster response. Although Harvey lost its hurricane status, it created catastrophic flooding that was not expected to let up for several days.

“In terms of weather, it’s ugly, and we’re having tornadoes — we’ve been having tornadoes for the last 12 hours,” Picard said. “The hurricane itself is just lots of rain that’s created huge amounts of flooding. Large parts of cities and roadways are cut off, and that’s making delivering aid and supplies very difficult.”

Picard expects his teams to travel to other shelters and disaster relief sites by Tuesday, but as of Sunday afternoon, such trips were not safe. With the help of high vehicles from the National Guard, only a few trips could be made to provide help to the most devastated areas.

Red Cross teams in the Houston area have also helped residents evacuate as the water rises — over two feet in some places, Picard said.

Aside from Picard and Enos, about five other American Red Cross of Massachusetts volunteers were working in Texas Sunday, spokesman Jeff Hall said — and more were on the way.

“They’ve done a bunch of solicitations, and people have signed up,” Hall said. “By tomorrow, there should be more.”

Hall wasn’t sure when volunteers would arrive or in what numbers, as it depends on their ability to book flights. Hundreds of flights at Houston’s two commercial airports, George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William Hobby Airport, had been canceled.

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Back in the Bay State, the American Red Cross of Massachusetts had a “big, ambulance-like truck” on standby Sunday, Hall said. If the Red Cross of Texas calls for additional support, supplies and volunteers from Massachusetts are ready to go.

In a small city near Houston, two logistics managers from Massachusetts Task Force 1’s Urban Search and Rescue team were coordinating with local responders. Task force leader Mark Foster said Ed Seligman and Sean Brown were working with incident management teams in College Station.

Seligman has been with the task force more than 25 years and Brown for about 15, Foster said. Harvey isn’t their first hurricane: The two helped after Katrina in 2005 and Sandy in 2012.

Seligman and Brown have stayed in contact with the Beverly-based task force over the past few days.

“We’re all kind of waiting to hear what might happen,” Foster said Sunday morning. “I know they’re having meetings today to determine how things might go.”

Foster said his team in Beverly was no longer officially on standby, but trucks loaded with equipment and supplies were ready to roll.

“There is some indication that they may be looking for some more task forces to send down there, but we don’t have anything positive yet,” Foster said Sunday morning.


Rowan Walrath can be reached at rowan.walrath@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @rowanwalrath.

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