WIND LAKE — As Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, one Wind Lake resident decided to help rescue those stranded in the floodwaters — from his dining room.
Brad Blanton realized all he needed was a laptop, a cellphone and a little know-how from his day job.
Petty Officer 1st Class Blanton is stationed at U.S. Coast Guard, Sector Lake Michigan, in Milwaukee and used his days off over the past week to dispatch the all-volunteer rescue boats of the Cajun Navy Relief.
“I was looking for a way to help out. I found out about this on a Facebook post. I saw they were looking for dispatchers and I contacted them,” Blanton said.
Blanton said his boss is pleased with his involvement. Blanton estimates he’s helped nearly 100 people since last Tuesday.
“All the boats were working with the Cajun Navy, which are all civilian boats using their own gas and time to make these rescues,” Blanton said. “They’re the real heroes.”
Among those rescued: 28-year-old Arlesia Carrier and her family, including her 90-year-old grandmother, who were stuck in an apartment in Port Arthur, Texas, for 14 hours as the floodwaters started pouring in.
“We were wading in the water because there was nothing to get up on. We had to have our shoes off and our feet in the water,” Carrier said. “People were killing snakes in their dressers. It was overwhelming.”
With no electricity, Carrier used her last remaining battery life in her cellphone to get information off of Facebook to call for help.
“We couldn’t even get into the car to use the car (phone) charger because the water was up to the doors. I had 5 percent left on my phone,” Carrier said.
Blanton was on the other side of the phone, ready to help.
“She called me and said, ‘The waters are rising and Grandma is out of insulin.’ I said, ‘We’ve got to get you out of there,’ ” Blanton said.
Blanton dispatched the nearest boat set up on a tracker app to her address. Rescuers came in an airboat, a flat-bottomed boat powered by an aircraft-type fan, because outboard motors were impractical in the shallow floodwaters.
“Within 30 minutes (of reaching Blanton) I had three amazing men show up in a boat,” Carrier said. “It was an experience. I am truly grateful. We lost everything, but we got out alive.”
Now Carrier is living with relatives on higher ground and volunteering her time at a local shelter for evacuees worse off than her.
“The water has gone down and now it’s cleanup time,” Carrier said. “It’s crazy that someone a thousand miles away could help us make it. It’s amazing.”
Blanton credits his wife for “picking up the pieces” and helping him get through the sleepless nights when going to bed was less critical than helping one more evacuee.
“The first night he didn’t even go to bed,” Simone Blanton said. “The kids and I are definitely proud of him. It’s a good feeling that he’s involved in this.”