BUFFALO, NY — Resources from across the country have been called in to help people in south-east Texas. That includes volunteers from Western New York and elsewhere around the Empire State with special skills and equipment for disaster response.
From the departure from Buffalo of a Red Cross "ERV" short for Emergency Response Vehicle to the wheels up take off of a military cargo jet from an Air National Guard Base on Long Island, New Yorkers are either in or still en route to the Gulf Coast Region to use their training and skills to help those affected by the record rainfall induced flooding.
At least 11 Red Cross volunteers from Western New York along with others from around the state have been deployed. Channel 2 heard from Lockport's Diane Sargent on Saturday who is handling damage assessment in Houston.
"We can get the resources to the people and help them as soon as possible," Sargent said.
Now Bob Klinshaw of Lockport and John Bieger of Clarence are driving a Red Cross vehicle down to a staging area in Baton Rouge, Louisiania and they know they and this vehicle could be used in a variety of ways.
Klinshaw says, "We may go in and feed people. We'll go into a neighborhood and the siren will sound on it and that'll be the signal for people to come and we'll feed 'em two meals a day." Bieger adds "The logistics of how do you feed thousands of people, how do you shelter thousands of people and if there's been significant damage due to winds you've gotta find places to put em up for quite a while."
They could help in shelters set up by the Red Cross or eventually use the vehicle to distribute clean up kits to homeowners.
Some of the very dramatic rescues we're hearing about are being performed by the men and women of the New York Air National Guard's elite 106th Rescue Wing from Westhampton, NY. That specialized unit has used their three Blackhawk choppers and specialized Zodiac boats to make over 300 rescues or saves as they call it over the past two days. That includes a family with an infant.
Captain Michael O'Hagan says that rescue started with a man waving from the roof of a home and a trained para-rescue jumper known as a PJ lowered by the chopper to check it out.
"The helicopter lowered down a PJ - to kinda assess the scene and discovered nine people there not just one. It was a Dad and there were three adults and the rest were children including as young as one month old," O'Hagan said.
That specialized Air National Guard rescue unit has about 120 people now deployed in Texas. They also rescued people during Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.
The Salvation Army in Buffalo is on standby with some local members aware they could also be called to go down to Texas eventually.