Locals pull together to offer help after Hurricane Harvey

Michael Waite, right, is pictured working with a disaster management team from Washington state in Texas following Hurricane Harvey. Contributed by Michael Waite

Following the devastation in Texas caused by Hurricane Harvey, Redmond residents have taken it upon themselves to lend a hand.

Michael Waite, a paramedic and firefighter with the Redmond Fire Department, was deployed along with Washington state’s Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) on Aug. 28, only three days after the storm started.

They spent a full two weeks rendering assistance.

“Our role in the disaster management of things is to see members who are from the community and from the shelters,” Waite said.

His team set up in the parking lot of a junior high school, where some 700 people had sought shelter.

Substantial flooding in the area, which was in southeast Texas, had even damaged the school. By the time they arrived, though, it had receded.

The flooding had already caused damage to the structures and created respiratory problems for people, many of whom had left behind medications.

Waite’s team set up a five-tent center to triage and treat patients. Some of the most common conditions they treated were rashes, E. coli infections, tetanus and heart problems.

But the biggest thing he saw was mental health conditions.

Waite said post-traumatic stress was widespread among the people they treated following the devastation from Harvey.

And Waite said the destruction was widespread in the mostly low-income areas of Texas he was working in.

He worked on relief efforts after Hurricane Sandy in New York, and said Harvey caused more outright destruction even though the patient load was roughly the same.

Working in a disaster zone for extended periods of time also wears on first responders.

“The reality of being away from your family and being away from your home is definitely trying,” he said.

Waite said he and other responders were able to put the situation in perspective, saying while it was hard on them, it was much worse for the people they were helping.

By the time they left on Sept. 10, Waite said there was a semblance of normalcy returning to the region, despite a curfew still being in effect to help guard against looting.

“I think it went very well from our point of view,” he said.

Even though he just returned, his and some 30 other DMAT teams across the country are ready to deploy again at a moment’s notice if they’re not already in the field.

Another large storm, Hurricane Irma, swept across large swaths of Florida last weekend causing widespread damage.

Waite said they could be deployed again as soon as next week if their services are needed.

The DMAT teams are separate from local fire agencies, and Waite said he is grateful that his employers let him take time away from the city to assist in recovery efforts.

“I definitely appreciate the city and the fire department’s support,” he said. “Without the support of our employers, we wouldn’t be able to go.”

Other folks in Redmond are also pitching in for the relief effort.

David Choi is the missions pastor for Timberlake Church and said following Hurricane Harvey, his congregation decided to get involved.

“It was really just the initiative of the people in the church,” Choi said.

Following the hurricane, the congregation began collecting donations as part of a three-pronged approach.

The first, which Choi said they did immediately, was donate money to Samaritan’s Purse.

Following this, the church has been asking for donations that they will collect through Monday before being shipped down to Houston churches.

These largely consist of baby food and supplies, clothes, bleach and other material necessities.

The third prong of their plan is to send a team down to physically help folks restore their communities from Oct. 4-7.

This is all part of their mission as Christians, Choi said.

“The church needs to come alongside these people,” he said.

Donations are being accepted at all the Timberlake Church locations.

The main branch is located at 4505 236th Ave. N.E. outside of Redmond.

Donations are being accepted until Sept. 18.