Jeff Southerland lives in Hurst, owns a deck and fencing business, and is married with two daughters.
He has no connections to Houston and is not trained as a first responder.
But as he watched the news — feeling helpless as floodwaters slowly swallowed the Houston area — he felt compelled to leave the comfort of home to help.
Southerland, 28, posted a message on Facebook, asking if anyone wanted to go to Houston.
His father-in-law, Lynn Muncy, offered up his flat-bottom aluminum boat.
Jordan Fabel, a 30-year-old husband and father of four who lives in Richland Hills, responded.
“We just couldn’t stand by and do nothing,” Fabel said.
Fabel enlisted his friend, Garrett Marshall, 30, a husband and father of five who lives in Euless.
Southerland monitored Facebook to determine where people needed rescuing, and Google maps helped he see where the roads were closed.
“We figured we would settle somewhere north of Houston because of closed roads,” he said.
They loaded up an RV and with the boat in tow, left about 3:30 a.m. Monday, heading south on Interstate 45.
With floodwaters steadily rising, they launched the boat from an entrance ramp to a toll road northwest of Houston and from there, cruised neighborhoods.
Early on, as they maneuvered the boat around the Humble area, Fabel said they saw a white shirt hanging on a mailbox.
Inside a house they found a elderly man, his electric wheelchair rendered useless by the water.
“We found a manual wheelchair on his property in about three feet of water, and we put it in the boat with us,” Fabel said. “We were able to get him out. That’s what keeps us going and helps us get through everything.”
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Fabel said they spent the next two days rescuing more than 70 people. They were grateful beyond words.
One person they helped rescue returned the favor by giving them 20 gallons of gas for their boat.
“Everybody we encountered were so surprised that we came down there. They kept asking us which organization we were with. We said we weren’t with any of them,” Fabel said. “I couldn’t imagine keeping that attitude in a situation like that. I would not be in a happy place.”
They returned to their homes in Northeast Tarrant County on Wednesday, and despite being physically and emotionally spent, they will make a return trip on Labor Day.
“We have the resources, we have the ability and we have the time,” Southerland said.
Marshall said it’s hard to fathom what the flood victims are going through.
“What we’re going to do isn’t going to be enough. These people want their homes,” Marshall said. “They want to hop in the car and go to the grocery store. But they can’t do that.”