OOIDA members volunteering with flood relief efforts in Texas

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 5/29/2015

Russ Hessenflow has been a volunteer with the American Red Cross for the better part of the past 25 years. He was on the scene to provide help and logistical support during Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Katrina and the Joplin tornado.

Now, the 63-year-old trucker and OOIDA life member from St. Joseph, Mo., is down in Houston, trying to do the same for Texas residents who’ve been buffeted by the twin disasters of tornados and flash floods.

“We’re at an F5,” Hessenflow said of the devastation in the Houston area on Friday. “It’s the scale of a tornado or hurricane. There’s water everywhere.”

Chains of storms have prompted flooding alerts spanning nearly 800 miles from southern Texas into central Missouri, and at least 27 people are dead and another 13 missing in Texas alone, according to news reports. Rising waters have left drivers stranded from Dallas to Houston, prompting hundreds of vehicle rescues and closing roads.

Another OOIDA member, Steve Brand, has been trucking in relief supplies to folks in southern Texas.

“I was raised in south Texas,” he said.” I don’t forget where I come from. I still have friends and family down in McAllen.”

Brand, an owner-operator who runs Wolfmoon Transport out of Phoenix, Ariz., said he’s trucked in six semi-trailers’ worth of supplies, mostly diapers, baby food and other non-perishable items. He said he plans to make another trip to San Marcos, Texas, this weekend with some of the trucks in his fleet to drop off supplies with the Hays County emergency relief effort. Those supplies will be trucked to an old Kmart store near San Marcos, in coordination with Hays County officials.

He also said the flooding sometimes makes delivery a challenge.

“Some interstates are closed, so we have to map our way around,” he said. “The first three times I went down there, we had to backtrack several hundred miles just to get around and come back in (due to the flooding).”

He said the disaster in south Texas has resulted in “a whole bunch of displaced people.”

“They’ve got boats everywhere, they’ve got cops everywhere, National Guard everywhere,” he said. “And they’ve got more bad weather coming.”
Hessenflow said both Interstate 30 and Loop 12 in Dallas are “flooded out right now, as we speak” and that the Red Cross in Houston is running eight to 10 shelters for flood victims, with anywhere from 50 to 200 people per shelter each night.

According to a news release from the Red Cross, storms have affected about 35 percent of the state, destroying or damaging thousands of homes. The Red Cross is providing shelter, food, water, relief supplies, health services and emotional support to people in need.

Since early May, hundreds of Red Cross workers have opened 37 shelters, served more than 34,000 meals and snacks, and handed out more than 33,000 relief items and cleaning supplies in Texas. In addition, 40 emergency response vehicles are distributing food and relief items in the affected communities. And additional volunteers and vehicles are on alert if needed, the agency stated.

Hessenflow said he reached out to Land Line to make a personal plea for donations of bottled water to be trucked into Houston.

“I’d like to see eight semis full of water because that is our biggest consumption right now,” he said. We go through 1,200 to 1,400 cases a day. We’ve been going to Sam’s Clubs for three pallets a day at one time. Water is our biggest commodity that we need desperately.”

Hessenflow said the bottled water drop-offs can be coordinated through the Greater Houston American Red Cross.

The Red Cross website states that donations of money to the organization can also help provide food, water and shelter for those displaced. To donate, people can visit redcross.org, call 800-RED CROSS (800-733-2767) or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

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