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Hurricane Harvey: Good Samaritans Rush to Save Strangers as Water Rises

Rescuers worked tirelessly throughout Sunday, plucking scores of people from streets that had turned into rushing rivers of floodwaters.
Image: Precinct 6 Deputy Constables Sgt. Paul Fernandez, from left, Sgt. Michael Tran and Sgt. Radha Patel rescue an elderly woman
Police rescue an elderly woman from rising water on Sunday in Houston.Jon Shapley / Houston chronicle via AP

HOUSTON — Jordy Bloodsworth knows what it's like to lose everything in a storm. He can remember the panic he felt when Hurricane Katrina struck 12 years ago, wiping away his possessions.

"I've been a victim of this," said Bloodsworth, 25, who lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. "I feel like I've got do something."

He sprang into action on Sunday afternoon, loading up his car with gear and supplies. He was headed to Houston, 18-foot fishing boat in tow, to help rescue people trapped in their homes amid catastrophic flooding let loose by Hurricane Harvey.

"If I can get there before daylight, then I'll feel good," he said in a phone interview.

Bloodsworth is one of the original members of an armada of volunteer boaters known collectively as the "Cajun Navy." They were heroes during deadly floods in Louisiana last year, sailing into swamped neighborhoods on search-and-rescue missions.

Related: Why Does Houston Flood So Often?

And now, as Houston reckons with disastrous floods, the members of the Cajun Navy are just some of the countless Americans trying to save lives, scrambling to keep up with nonstop calls for help.

Rescuers worked tirelessly throughout Sunday, plucking scores of people from streets that had turned into rushing rivers of floodwaters. Helicopters landed near deluged freeways, while authorities and good Samaritans paddled through waterlogged areas with kayaks and canoes.

Image: Police rescue in Houston
Authorities rescue an elderly woman from rising water in Houston.Jon Shapley / Houston chronicle via AP

Monica Rodriguez, 32, and her three children — two teenagers and a toddler — were taken to safety by a jet skier Sunday after more than two days trapped in her Houston apartment.

"It got really bad yesterday," she said. "The first floor [of the apartment building] was entirely covered" by floodwaters.

Rodriguez and her kids were rescued by Crickett Erwin, 46, and her fiancé, Alan Parker, 49 — "two civilians just wanting to help," as Erwin said.

"I'm going out there because I have children myself," she said. "I've been [rescuing] moms and babies and kids. I feel bad that they can't get food. They're scared.

"If I have the opportunity to have jet skis, to be able to go in there and bring 'em back. ... It makes you feel good that you can help somebody like that," she said.

Erwin, who has three kids of her own, had no interest in patting herself on the back. She and Parker, who drove in from Sugar Land, Texas, had to keep searching for families.

"They're hugging me and saying I'm an angel," she said, referring to the victims. "I'm really not. I'm just a mom wanting to save other moms."

At least one person has died in flooding in Houston, officials said. The storm has been blamed for at least two deaths overall.

Houston police said Sunday afternoon that more than 1,200 people had been rescued, with more to come. The National Weather Service warned that flooding victims should go to their rooftops, not their attics, to avoid being trapped by the rushing waters.

Houston resident Sarah Bond was trapped Sunday night on the second floor of her house with her family — six other adults, a baby and two small dogs. Like so many other people across southeast Texas, she was desperate for escape.

Related: How to Help Victims of Hurricane Harvey

"We have not been rescued," Bond said in a text message. "Not too clear we can take another night's water."

Bond, concerned about conserving her cellphone battery, could not text for long. There were four elderly people trapped on the second floor of the house next door, she said.

A startling photograph of elderly women in a Texas nursing home went viral Sunday. The women, many of them in wheelchairs, were stuck in waist-deep waters, with furniture and other objects seemingly floating around the room. They were taken away from the facility in a helicopter.

William Hill, 62, rushed into Houston to pick up his aunt, whose Houston home was inundated with a foot of water or more.

"Over here, the water is just too high," said Hill, a Houston native.

As responders rushed to save people from deluged homes and stranded cars, Houston officials said emergency services were "at capacity" and warned residents to "shelter in place" and not to call 911 unless they were in "imminent danger."

Houston officials have gotten more than 2,000 calls for rescue since the storm made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane late Friday, Mayor Sylvester Turner said Sunday at a news conference.

"We have had an unprecedented amount of water," Turner said. "I don't think I need to tell anyone at this point that this is a very, very serious and unprecedented storm."