Defying Hurricane Winds to Deliver Food and Water:METRO employee's 19 hour mission

September 25, 2005

As Houston skies darkened and the Hurricane-force winds of Rita bore down on Houston early Friday evening, three METRO employees went outdoors on a mission of mercy that ended some 19 hours and many harrowing miles later.

The first call came in about 5pm: people taking temporary shelter at the Houston Community College (HCC) on Holman were without water. Enter METRO's Kenneth Bell, Allen Burks and Robert Kelly, who had access at Houston TRANSTAR to an 18 wheeler loaded with bottled water. First stop: HCC, where 2 pallets of H2O were dropped off.

The second call came from Sam Houston High School, at Irvington and the Hardy Toll Road. An estimated 600 people had taken refuge there to get out of the storm, tired and thirsty. Three pallets of water were dropped off there.

Homeland Security called next with a request to deliver more water and now food to a Rita-spawned shelter at the Civic Center in Humble. The tractor trailer was empty by this point and required replenishment at a Salvation Army warehouse on Fannin near AstroWorld. With the help of METRO recruits Mark Rawlinson and Booker Terrell and two fork lifts, pallets of food and water were loaded, filling half the truck. By this time, after midnight, the storm was in full swing in the Houston area and the goodwill warriors got a massive 13-ton METRO wrecker truck as insurance for getting back to base if high winds overturned the water truck. About 300 souls at the Civic Center shelter welcomed the food and water.

Next stop: A church shelter west across town at Hwy. 290 and Jones Road. The heroes didn't know how many people they helped there.

They finished their mission and returned to TRANSTAR about 3am Saturday. A few hours later they were joined by METRO employee Dale Ward and took to the streets again, this time with chain saws, to clear about 12 trees blown onto streets needed to open priority bus routes.

Their "day" ended about 3 pm Saturday.