2017 in Review: When disaster hit, Wise responded

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, December 27, 2017
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So often, the news we report is tragic in some way. And the damage brought to South Texas by Hurricane-turned-Tropical Storm Harvey in August was no exception.

But what I’ll remember most about the record-setting natural disaster was the response by so many local folks who wanted to help out in ways large and small.

NAVIGATING TO SAFETY – County Attorney James Stainton takes stranded residents to safety in a boat during Hurricane Harvey rescue efforts. Stainton and Sheriff Lane Akin headed south to render aid after the storm hit in August. Submitted photo

I had the opportunity to speak to local residents who helped the victims: either by driving to the Gulf Coast area to help with rescues or those who stayed in Wise County and organized relief supply drives.

Michael DoByns, an engineer/paramedic with the Grapevine Fire Department and reserve officer for the Decatur Police Department, actually arrived at the coast a day before the hurricane hit, and was less than 50 miles away from where the eye of the Category 4 storm made landfall. He and his team helped rescue people from floodwaters that left much of the town underwater.

Wise County EMS medic Randall Preuninger worked as part of the state-activated EMS Strike Team that helped shuttle critical patients from the coast to hospitals in places like San Antonio.

Sheriff Lane Akin and County Attorney James Stainton headed south with a boat after the hurricane hit. The two helped the local fire department in Katy evacuate stranded residents.

Several of Akin’s deputies who are also members of the National Guard were deployed to the storm-ravaged areas to help as well.

Citizens such as Kory Chapman of Decatur also made the trip south with a boat after watching news reports of the flooding and feeling like he needed to help. He and his friends rescued several people, including an elderly couple.

Others in Wise County organized supply drives, loaded trailers and made the trip south to deliver the much-needed relief to those in need.

It was inspiring to see people recognize a need and jump into action to help people they had never met.

For those who gave of their time, talents or resources to help those affected by disaster, your actions will be remembered as a bright spot in 2017.

Brian Knox is the Messenger’s special projects manager.

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