Awnings from homes and businesses littered the roads. Trees lay in fields. And business signs had fallen onto highways.
As the sun set in Victoria and the Tarrant County MedStar crew was just a few miles from the hospital, it got dark — really dark. The city of more than 67,000 residents had no power.
“It’s very odd to go into a city like that and there’s not one light on,” said Jason Weimer, MedStar field operations supervisor. “They had generators at the hospital so that’s what we all used.”
Seven MedStar staff members, the agency’s AMBUS — an ambulance bus — and a special operations vehicle arrived in San Antonio on Friday afternoon along with dozens of other emergency crews and vehicles from across Texas to help after Hurricane Harvey arrived.
MedStar’s call came Saturday afternoon, when the crew learned it would travel to Victoria to help evacuate about 100 patients from Citizens Medical Center.
Normally a two-hour trip, it took almost five hours Saturday evening because of flooded highways and debris on roads.
“One route was flooded so we had to backtrack,” Weimer said. “We saw minor damage near Victoria, but it got worse as we got near the city.”
Later, he said, “The trip back to San Antonio was worse. There was more debris on roads.”
Weimer, who was in a lead vehicle ahead of the AMBUS, stopped just outside Victoria.
“I saw this tree in the road and I thought it was small enough that I could move it,” Weimer said. “I couldn’t.”
Weimer said he has been with MedStar 11 years and he’s been an insurance adjuster as well. Through the years, he’s been in a handful of floods, at the scene of several tornado touchdowns in North Texas and seen the aftermath of seven hurricanes, including Hurricane Katrina.
“The images stick with you,” Weimer said. “And these images of Harvey will not go away.”
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Pouring rain fell Saturday night in Victoria as the crew arrived at Citizens Medical Center to evacuate patients. More heavy rain came down as the AMBUS backed up to the hospital, which had lost power, to get patients out, and while crews loaded 14 patients into the vehicle.
“It never stopped raining,” Weimer said. “When we were driving down to Victoria, the rain would stop for a second. But once we got into Victoria, it would come in waves.”
Harvey, which made landfall Friday as a Category 4 hurricane and then lingered just off the coast as a drenching tropical storm, sent devastating floods pouring into Houston on Sunday. The rising water forced a mass evacuation of parts of the city and overwhelmed rescuers, who could not keep up with calls for help.
As many as 50 counties are affected by the flooding, Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Brock Long said Monday. The rain and floods have been blamed for at least two deaths. Some media reports from Houston also said a family of six died after their van was swept away by floodwaters.
This report contains information from the Associated Press.
Destructive winds and rain from Hurricane Harvey tear branches from trees and leave a path of destruction in Victoria near the Texas Gulf Coast.