The storm that tore through Corpus Christi, Rockport, and Victoria went on to flood much of the greater Houston area, as well as Port Arthur and Beaumont. Answering the appeal for anyone with a watercraft, some Hilltop employees joined in the volunteer flotilla to help ferry Houston residents to safety. Among them were PlainsCapital Bank Houston Market President Brent Johnston and PrimeLending Senior Vice President, Construction and Renovation Lending, Kale Salmans.
Harvey dumped a record 50 inches of rain over parts of Houston, placing much of the city underwater. As the murky flood waters began to rise, Brent Johnston, a lifetime Houston resident, was busy addressing his family’s safety. Once he was assured they were okay, he directed his attention to helping his neighbors in need. Using a borrowed canoe, he ventured around his Houston neighborhood of 145 homes rescuing people trapped in their flooded residences.
Meanwhile in Dallas, Kale Salmans watched the harrowing news images coming out of Houston along with the pleas for more boats, and knew he had to act. On Sunday morning, Aug. 27, 2017, with his wife’s support and encouragement, he quickly threw some clothes in a bag, hooked his boat and trailer up to his truck, and headed south.
The drive to Houston was chaotic the closer he got to the city. At various points along the highway, the north and south-bound lanes were flooded along with the exits, and traffic had to turn around and travel the wrong direction on the roads to navigate through it. He joined in a convoy of fire department trucks and vehicles pulling boats and eventually ended up on the south side of Houston near League City. At one point, he helped rescue a stranded truck driver from the flood waters.
Eventually the convoy came to an area where the highway was blocked off, but a local constable moved the barricade so they could drive through.
“The flooding was everywhere,” said Kale. “The streets were like a maze. I would drive a few blocks and it would be fine, then I would hit water. I would turn around and drive a few blocks in another direction and it would be flooded.”
When Kale came upon a neighborhood where water had enveloped a large apartment complex and nearby mobile home park, he enlisted the help of people nearby to unload his boat from the trailer and set it in the water. He spent the rest of the daylight hours on Sunday ferrying stranded people to safety. That night, he slept in his truck in a Buc-ee’s parking lot, and the next day he was back at it again bright and early, rescuing flood victims in the West Houston area.
After two days of hard work, Kale had to head back to Dallas late Monday, having helped to clear many people and animals out of several apartment complexes.
Kale recalled the images of incredible courage, fear, and chaos that are now etched in his memory.
“There were so many people there with boats, average citizens like me who had traveled long distances to come lend a hand,” said Kale. “It’s difficult to put words to it. I saw cars floating down streets that had been turned into rivers. So many people needing help. At one point a man ran up to my truck at a stoplight begging for the use of my boat to rescue his family members who were trapped.”
Brent and Kale were among the hundreds of good Samaritans plucking people out of the water in the flooding aftermath, giving a crucial boost to the professional rescuers who had been inundated by a storm that had paralyzed the country’s fourth largest city and displaced more than a million people.