Drenched, Ducks Unlimited Bands Together in Texas

DU Family helps in Harvey rescue and recovery

Hurricane Harvey has far exceeded the U.S. record for rainfall from a single storm. The incredibly slow-moving system has already dumped more than 11 trillion gallons of water and is predicted to dump as much as 25 trillion gallons in Texas alone. Between midnight, Friday, and 9:20 a.m., Tuesday, 51.88 inches of rain fell in the Lone Star State – a record for the continental U.S. from a land-falling tropical cyclone. For comparison, the catastrophic flooding in Louisiana last year was the result of nearly 7 trillion gallons over seven days.

Thirteen million people were put under flood watches or warnings, and 58 Texas counties are under disaster declaration. About one-third of Houston, the fourth largest city in the country, is flooded. In addition, the coastal cities of Beaumont and Port Arthur got pummeled with 26 inches of rain in 24 hours, and they were still getting more at the time of this report. At least 60 people have died in the Texas flooding, and thousands have lost everything they own. Estimates put eventual total losses at as much as $125 billion. People in Louisiana now brace for a deluge of their own.

"Ducks Unlimited sends our thoughts and prayers to all of those impacted, and I hope they know they are not going through this alone," DU CEO Dale Hall said. "Many of our staff and volunteers are struggling to deal with loss and damage to their homes, but they are also turning out in droves to help others."

With many staff members, thousands of volunteers and more than 75,000 members in Texas and Louisiana, Ducks Unlimited's family in the region quickly fell into two categories: those impacted and those helping others. Many were both.

"The 'DU Family' is more than a moniker. Staff, volunteers and members are pulling together to help each other get to safety and salvage what they can," said Texas Manager of Conservation Programs Todd Merendino.

Merendino lives in Bay City, which issued a mandatory evacuation order. His parents live in Beaumont, another area impacted by the incredible amount of rainfall.

"In times like this you really grasp just how important faith, family, friends and even strangers can be," he said. On Wednesday, Aug. 30, he reported that, "My parents are almost surrounded in Beaumont, so they are not out of the woods yet. I am very concerned about them, and there is no way for me to get there."

Despite his family's situation, Todd's thoughts were already turned toward what his Richmond-based staff could do for others over the coming weeks. "As soon as the water recedes, we're going to help out in our local communities and areas. This may involve helping folks get stuff out of their homes, cleaning up, serving food, distributing supplies or anything else. It is our way, as DU staff, to show our community spirit in a part of the state that has greatly supported DU. I'm not really sure what we can do, but we are offering our help in any way it's needed."  

Director of DU's Southern Region Jerry Holden fully supports Todd's commitment. "I am fully cognizant of the scale of this tragedy to every facet of Texas and Texans' lives. It is time to band together and help our fellow man," he said.

DU Regional Director Jason McKey had more than a foot of water in his house in Katy, Texas. On Tuesday afternoon, DU volunteers and staff showed up to help Jason and his neighbors.

"Matt Bunn, Edd Hanson and John Taylor are the epitome of Team DU," McKey explained. Director of Development Matt Bunn, East Texas District Chairman Edd Hanson and Kilgore DU Committee member John Taylor drove 300 miles to launch Edd's boat and help flood victims.

"These men are willing to do anything for me and my family during this difficult time. I am truly blessed to call them friends and, better yet, family," McKey said.

DU Regional Director Jason McKey's home during the flooding.

The three used the boat to get McKey's flooded house packed up, and then they turned their attention to the needs of his neighbors.

"It is absolutely devastating, what is happening here in Southeast Texas," McKey said. "But we are pulling together and rescuing my neighbors." When they finished there, they moved to the neighborhood across the street.

Even in the midst of one of the worst disasters to hit Texas in decades, the DU family spirit can be seen firsthand.

"On behalf of all DU volunteers and members, we extend a special Ducks Unlimited thanks to all who have given and will give their time and resources to assist victims of the recent flooding," Hall said.

Ducks Unlimited remains committed to our mission of restoring wetlands. These critical wetland habitats provide places for ducks and other wildlife, but they also provide community resilience through storm surge abatement, water absorption and flood mitigation. Wetlands are particularly important in coastal areas where communities are vulnerable to hurricanes and other powerful storms, like Harvey. The flat coastal terrain exposes property to the full power of these storms, but wetlands act like sponges, absorbing water and slowing storm surge. Even small wetlands can make a difference in the landscape. A one-acre wetland can typically store about one million gallons. In fact, FEMA encourages the use of wetlands for storm water retention in lieu of, or in conjunction with, traditional structural flood-control measures.

*************Updated Sept. 6, 2017***********************
Sources: http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/27/us/harvey-impact-by-the-numbers-trnd/index.html