Black Hawk helicopters from South Carolina arrived in Dallas on Tuesday to begin rescue efforts in the Houston area for victims of Hurricane Harvey, a destructive storm that has already claimed more than a dozen lives.
The two S.C. National Guard choppers and their crews will be assisting Houston first responders who have been stretched to the limit by thousands of calls for help.
Discussions are ongoing about providing more National Guard resources to the storm-ravaged area of eastern Texas, said Guard spokeswoman Lt. Col. Cindi King.
"It could be more helicopters. It could be high-water rescue vehicles," she said.
The Black Hawks departed at about 11 a.m. Tuesday from McEntire Joint National Guard Base in Richland County. Each chopper has a team of two pilots, a crew chief, a medic and three rescue swimmers. Dallas will be the operations base because it is considered a safe location, she said.
"Just as we are keeping a watchful eye on our South Carolina coast, we are ready to support our neighbors in Texas in their great time of need and help them in any way possible as they get through the devastating effects from Hurricane Harvey," said S.C. Adjutant General Robert Livingston Jr.
"Our soldiers and airmen will be available as long as they are needed and our thoughts and prayers go out to all those impacted by this weather event," he said. "This is about states helping states and neighbors helping neighbors."
Gov. Henry McMaster signed an order Tuesday that says the National Guard is on state duty in support of Texas.
"The magnitude of flooding and damage that Hurricane Harvey has brought to Texas is truly heartbreaking, but the heroic action and sacrifice by thousands of volunteers and first responders give inspiration to the nation," McMaster said. "South Carolina stands ready to fulfill any further requests from Gov. (Greg) Abbott and his team."
$1 million from Boeing
Boeing Co., which builds its 787 Dreamliner commercial plane in North Charleston, is committing $1 million toward disaster relief efforts in Texas.
"Our thoughts are with all our neighbors and teammates throughout Texas who are dealing with the unprecedented impact from Hurricane Harvey," Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing's chairman and CEO, said in a statement.
Some 15 lives have been lost to the storm, including a Houston police officer who drowned in his patrol car driving to work downtown Sunday morning when he got trapped in high water. In some areas of the city, residents are pitching tents on roofs while waiting to be rescued from the floodwaters, the Houston Chronicle reported.
South Carolina is sending other help to Texas, too. The S.C. Forestry Commission is dispatching 18 members of its Incident Management Team to assist with ongoing flood recovery efforts. The team will provide organizational structure to help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of relief operations.
Most of the Forestry Commission team was traveling to College Station, Texas, on Tuesday. Their exact role in the relief effort was not known but it was expected the team would help manage movement of supplies between other responding agencies or receive and distribute goods to flood victims. The team will be deployed for about two weeks, officials said.
In the meantime, 53 Red Cross volunteers and staff members from South Carolina have deployed to Texas and Louisiana.
"The Red Cross is working around the clock in extremely challenging conditions in Texas to help people impacted by Hurricane Harvey," Gail McGovern, the charity's president and CEO, said in a statement. McGovern said Boeing's support will help provide shelter, food and supplies to people impacted by the hurricane.
Residents who want to help the flood victims should be aware of scam artists. Secretary of State Mark Hammond advised that people donate to well-known charities and not ones that have sprung up overnight. Beware of charities with names that sound like other respected charities. Never provide personal or financial information to cold callers. Information on reputable charities is available at sos.sc.gov.
Help for the storm victims is coming from faith-based organizations who mostly are encouraging their members to donate funds to relief efforts.
The Episcopal Church in South Carolina is directing its members to Episcopal Relief and Development, the church’s humanitarian aid agency.
“A special Hurricane Harvey Response fund already has been set up and is accepting donations,” said Mary Person, diocesan coordinator for the agency. “Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, and our diocesan Bishop Skip Adams, are both encouraging our local churches and parishioners to give directly to this fund.”
The agency will coordinate with members of Episcopal Church dioceses in Texas, and probably also Louisiana, as it implements its relief plans. Those interested in volunteering should go to the “Ready to Serve” site at episcopalrelief.org.
Seacoast Church, the Mount Pleasant-based megachurch with several campuses, also is helping with hurricane relief.
“For now, the best thing we can do is provide prayers and financial support," Founding Pastor Greg Surratt said in a message to members. “We are connecting with other ARC churches to coordinate a response and may send teams at some point after the initial emergency relief efforts.”
ARC refers to the Association of Relational Churches set up by Surratt and several other faith leaders in an effort to plant additional churches around the world.
Seacoast members can make donations by texting 843-410-0739 using the keyword “relief.” Donors also can go to bit.ly/2go4fao or arcchurches.com, or use a kiosk at the Mount Pleasant, West Ashley, Summerville or Asheville campus.
The Diocese of South Carolina, a group of Anglican churches up and down the coastal half of the state, is encouraging its members to make financial donations via the Anglican Relief and Development Fund, at ardf.org. A group from St. Michael's Church is planning to go to Houston to help with recovery efforts once they get a green light from the local Anglican diocese.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of the Catholic Diocese of Charleston is asking his parishes to take up a special collection for storm victims over two weekends, Sept. 9-10 and Sept. 16-17. The money will be sent to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for distribution to Catholic Charities USA and the Diocese of Galveston-Houston.
Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, the Reform synagogue, is directing its members to the Union of Reform Judaism, which is collecting donations at urj.org/hurricane-harvey. Similarly, the Orthodox Union is accepting donations at ou.org.
Local United Methodist churches are referring members to the United Methodist Committee on Relief, or UMCOR, which is taking donations for hurricane assistance at bit.ly/2wXudYK.
UMCOR likely will organize teams of aid workers who will travel to the Houston area in the days to come.
Water Mission, the faith-based charity that provides water purification systems to disaster areas, is on standby, ready to respond, a spokesperson said. But they must abide by government rules and await a request for help.
Officials at the S.C. Baptist Convention are participating in regular conference calls with their Texas counterparts, but must wait for the flooding to subside before much can be done, according to Randy Creamer, director of disaster relief.
The convention's disaster relief leaders are readying a child care team that could leave for Dallas by this weekend, Creamer said. Team volunteers will provide assistance to storm evacuees who end up in Dallas.
"Texas needs reinforcements," he said. "We’re honored to be able to help with that."
David Wren contributed to this report.