Coast Guard, Red Cross, BloodCenter of WI helping in Texas: Unique boat from Milwaukee utilized

MILWAUKEE -- Floodwaters reached the roof lines of single-story homes Monday and people could be heard pleading for help from inside as Harvey poured rain on the Houston area for a fourth consecutive day after a chaotic weekend of rising water and rescues.

The nation's fourth-largest city was still largely paralyzed by one of the largest downpours in U.S. history. And there was no relief in sight from the storm that spun into Texas as a Category 4 hurricane, then parked itself over the Gulf Coast. With nearly 2 more feet of rain expected, authorities worried whether the worst was yet to come.

Harvey has been blamed for at least two confirmed deaths. A Houston television station reported Monday that six family members were believed to have drowned when their van was swept away by floodwaters.

The KHOU report was attributed to three family members the station did not identify. No bodies have been recovered.

Police Chief Art Acevedo told The Associated Press that he had no information about the report but said that he's "really worried about how many bodies we're going to find."

Harvey damage in Texas

Harvey damage in Texas

Inflatable boats the government keeps at the U.S. Coast Guard Great Lakes Region in Milwaukee will be utilized as search and rescue efforts continue in Texas.

Coast Guard officials typically perform their rescues out on Lake Michigan and other bodies of water -- not in flooded streets and buildings, but that's what's desperately needed amid Tropical Storm Harvey in Texas. Ice rescue boats from Milwaukee will help crews in Texas.

Bryan Swintek

"We deal with ice rescue, and so because of that, we have a specific type of boat which is called a skiff ice, which is basically an inflatable boat that has an open bow and stern that allows us to bring people in and out of it," Bryan Swintek, U.S. Coast Guard said.

Coast Guard personnel from Wisconsin flew out Monday, August 28th.

"We'll be putting 10 of those boats on a Coast Guard aircraft along with 10 people to go down and help provide additional search and rescue efforts to the crews and people in Houston," Swintek said.

American Red Cross volunteers from Wisconsin are already in Texas, and another disaster relief truck left Milwaukee Monday.

American Red Cross

"We give things like lots of water. We give insect repellent. We give food -- that's the main thing. Food and water and comfort. Once they're able to clean, then we send out cleanup kits," Deb Swan, Red Cross volunteer said.

American Red Cross

Volunteers will also supply emergency shelters in Texas. Swan said volunteers who already left said this disaster is unlike anything they've ever seen before.

"This is totally different because the hurricane just stayed there. They're getting rain, upon rain, upon rain," Swan said.

The U.S. Coast Guard Great Lakes Region is one of the few that has those inflatable open rescue boats that will help in Texas.

Meanwhile, there's also a desperate need for blood in the wake of Harvey. Officials with the BloodCenter of Wisconsin are asking that anyone able to donate blood do so as soon as possible so that needed support can be provided to patients in need in Texas. They noted that all blood collections in Houston have been canceled, and donor centers are closed.

Independent blood centers – like BloodCenter of Wisconsin – throughout the country have provided nearly 1,000 units of blood products already, but another 1,000 more are needed

Blood donation

BloodCenter officials said a shipment of blood was sent from the Badger State to the Lone Star state Monday, and they anticipate additional need later this week.

Individuals with O blood are critically important. Officials have been told O-negative and O-positive blood types are needed – as well as platelets.   

To schedule an appointment, call 1-877-BE-A-HERO or visit https://www.bcw.edu.