I sat at the ACEP headquarters attending an EMS board review course as the Texas Emergency Medical Taskforce (EMTF) was springing into action to respond to what would become one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history. I am the medical director of EMTF 1, which encompasses the Texas Panhandle, including Amarillo and Lubbock, where I am the EMS medical director, and I call Amarillo home. It wasn’t much of a surprise when the text and email requesting my deployment to the Texas coast came through.
By then, Hurricane Harvey had hit, and the damage was done. I knew only what I could gather from the news as I made arrangements for shift coverage, canceled a Las Vegas trip for me and my wife, and gathered a backpack full of stuff to live for five days in who knows where (see Figure 1).
My air travel to San Antonio was uneventful and I pointed a rental car towards Corpus Christi, Texas. We were around 60 hours after landfall. Houston was now being battered with rain, and reports of flooding were coming over the radio and Facebook. Our mobile medical unit (MMU), a fancy term for a rather large expandable tent with dozens of ED beds (see Figure 2), was being setup up at a commandeered (I didn’t know you could really do that) private airport in Ingleside, which was right outside of Aransas Pass and along the primary road in and out of the areas worst hit by the eye of Harvey.
I finally arrived at our site, where it was overcast, with steady 30-plus-mile-per-hour winds and a rather ominous appearing sky. Toppled and smashed multi-million dollar jets were scattered around us; their hangars had blown away. Some hangars were still intact, and we broke into them when we needed things. Flat ambulance tire? Tools? We found an air compressor and all the tools we needed. Nobody stole anything, but the concept of commandeering something was new to me. I am sure whoever owned those things would not mind. We were doing good things.