WALKER COUNTY, Tex As hundreds fled the coast before Hurricane Harvey made landfall, many of them went through Walker County. In New Waverly, traffic became so heavy that the streets were gridlocked Friday afternoon. Emergency personnel in the area began preparing for what was turning into a category 4 hurricane.
The New Waverly Fire Department added staff over the weekend while Walker County Pct. 4 crews began working 12 hour shifts to keep roads passable. Law enforcement also increased their patrols.
As the rain continued to fall, area streams and bayous began to flood and a number of residents found themselves trapped in rising waters. New Waverly firefighters were called to the first of a series of water rescues when a driver found himself trapped while trying to cross Winters Bayou on FM 2693, east of New Waverly. Firefighters were able to maneuver a rescue boat upstream and save the driver from the bed of his truck. The bridge was eventually washed out by the flood and remains closed at this time.
Calls continued to pour in throughout the area, leading to a number of swift water rescues. Sunday evening, Punkin-Evergreen and New Waverly Firefighters were called to multiple rescues on Winters Bayou between New Waverly and Coldspring.
During one of the missions, firefighters found two men trapped in the back of their pickup truck in very fast moving water. Crews made their way to the truck in a rescue boat using a light tower from a fire engine to illuminate the scene. Both occupants made it out okay but during the rescue, firefighters could hear cries for help coming from trees downstream.
Rescue workers eventually found a husband and wife clinging to the trees. The couple had been fleeing the storm with their three month old daughter when the flood waters swept away their vehicle. The couple were able to make it out but the current was so strong, it pulled the infant from her parent's hands and she was lost in the flood waters.
The couple was not physically hurt but they are devastated by the loss of their daughter. At last check, Lt. Dan Todd of the San Jacinto Sheriff's Office told News 3 that the baby was found within 150 yards of the families truck six days later.
We're told that over the course of just a few days, the New Waverly Fire Department performed 12 swift water rescues from vehicles and houses while the Punkin-Evergreen Volunteer Fire Department also performed 12 swift water rescues. During one such operation, a Punkin-Evergreen boat was overturned and a firefighter nearly drowned before she was rescued.
Eventually, flood waters got so high, the Punkin-Evergreen area became cut off from the outside world. During that time, they set up a temporary shelter and aid station, caring for 48.