KBTX | Bryan & College Station, TX | Aggieland News

Looking Back: A Week's Worth of Hurricane Dolly

By: Kristen Ross Email
By: Kristen Ross Email

After spending six days in South Texas planning, preparing, and positioning themselves near Hurricane Dolly, members of Texas Task Force 1 are back home, and so are News Three Reporter Kristen Ross, and Photojournalist Jordan Meserole.

It was a week filled with high winds, pouring rain, and many rescues.

Here's a look at what our News Three crew experienced last week as embedded journalists with Texas Task Force 1.

On Monday afternoon, first responders from across the state are rallied up to meet at Texas Task Force 1 headquarters in College Station for their next assignment: Hurricane Dolly.

"We're prepared for high winds, structural damage or flooding," Bob McKee with Texas Task Force 1 said.

By nightfall there's a nervous excitement in the air as ten swift rescue teams and a heavy crew all meet on site. Everyone is gearing up for what the next day holds, a lot of planning, preparing, and positioning themselves near the storm.

TUESDAY 4:30 A.M. WAKE UP CALL

Texas Task Force 1 prepares to leave for South Texas. Traveling to Weslaco are six swift water rescue teams, two of them from Bryan/College Station.

At first daylight the teams load up and get on the road, and prepare for whatever Dolly may blow in.

"We got a long ways to go," Duane Frederick said.

Signs along the highway point to impending danger, and warn of the Hurricane heading towards the South Texas region, but Texas Task Force 1 moves forward.

"We get there before the storm hits, find out what kind of damage the storm does and then we do our job," Frederick said.

WEDNESDAY: 10 A.M.

Still a few hours away from Dolly making landfall in Weslaco--the rain begins to fall and the winds pick up, forcing Texas Task force 1 to move their vehicles to higher ground.

"It looks like it ought to get pretty bad," Pete Sterk with College Station Fire Department said.

"It's going to be a mess," said TX-TF1 member Jason Ballard.

3:00 P.M. DOLLY ARRIVES

Dolly's winds begin to pick up mid afternoon. The rain feels like sharp rocks against the skin. After taking a wind measurement to see just how fast the wind are traveling, the meter reads nearly 75 mph.

The command center begins buzzing with requests for rescues, but the high winds are keeping Texas Task Force 1 holed up indoors.

10 P.M.

Then just before 10 p.m. a break in the storm allows the teams to get out and go to work.

"It'll be a long two days that'll be one day," Task Force Leader Warren Weidler said.

The once paved highways--now more look a lot more like reservoirs, with water rising by the minute.

First responders head off to rescue missions across four different counties.

Thursday 3:30 A.M.

Our second stop, a nursing home in San Benito where more than 45 senior citizens are trapped inside.

"Some of them were bedridden, and were unable to do anything," Lauren Nolen with College Station Fire Department said.

Boat after boat pulls the seniors from their flooded home, and brings them up to higher ground where they are lifted to safety.

"We train hard to get out here and help people," Joe Ondrasek with the Bryan Fire Department said.

Working 27 hours straight rescuing residents before taking a break.

The damage and destruction across the Valley is widespread.

Dolly's winds were not only strong enough to topple signs right off of businesses, but the rains also pounded many fields, leaving more than a foot of water in some areas.

Friday 5 A.M.

The next morning is a lot of the same; trying to identify the residents most in need.

"People who just have water in their houses and are fine, as opposed to people trapped in their houses with rising water," Weidler said.

Calls consistently continue in the command center. The board is filled with assignment after assignment, the majority in Cameron County, one of the hardest hit areas.

Crews have been diligently working behind the scenes trying to send frist responders where help is most needed.

SATURDAY 5:00 A.M.

On the last day of search and rescue missions, teams check on residents in some of the hardest hit areas one more time.

"Are you alright, do you need any assistance," a task force member asks a resident.

Although three days after the storm the area is still covered in several feet of water.

On one street several pets were left behind to brave the storm, then a kind neighbor brings an abandoned dog some food.

The owner hasn't been seen for days.

Dozens of other residents are taking up temporary shelter at a local high school. Hoping to wait it out until the waters recede.

SUNDAY 4:00 WAKE-UP CALL

After assisting in more than 300 rescues, Texas Task Force 1's mission is now complete and they are given the go ahead to head home.

But the arrival back in College Station is bittersweet

"Seeing the homes people were in while we were there, and now knowing I get to go home to a house that's not flooded and know that my family is ok," Matt said.


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