By Sandi Gohn

When active-duty and guard service members helped with the cleanup effort after Tropical Depression Imelda in Southeast Texas, the USO was right by their side.

Imelda Brings Catastrophic Flooding to Southeast Texas

Imelda wasn’t the average tropical depression. The storm, which made landfall as a tropical storm in Southeast Texas on September 17, made a devastating impact throughout the region.

Coast Guard shallow-water response teams from Marine Safety Unit Baton Rouge conduct rescue operations near Beaumont, Texas on Sept. 19, 2019. | Photo credit U.S. Coast Guard

According to an NPR article about Imelda, the National Weather Service in Houston says that Galveston received 17.77 inches of rain over four days. Other areas of Southeast Texas received between 20 to 40 inches of rain in just 96 hours.

Imelda continued soaking parts of Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas through September 20, before moving north and eventually dissipating.

In response to this disaster, members of the Coast Guard conducted search and rescue missions throughout the region. According to an NBC story, 500 people were rescued by military or emergency personnel from the storm’s floodwaters in 36 hours alone.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also declared a state of emergency and activated the Texas National Guard to help with the Imelda response.

Ready to Help in the Wake of Imelda

As the military cleaned up after the storm, the USO was there to help, too.

According to Jeff Hill, USO Regional Vice President in the Eastern U.S., the Mobile USO team headed to China, Texas late last week to support the largest contingent of service members working on the ground. The Mobile USO team packed up its “Sprinter” unit, as well as an additional trailer, with the necessary supplies to provide classic USO services to troops working out of the China area.

Photo credit USO Photo

Service members relax near the Mobile USO vehicles.

Additionally, the team dropped supplies to other units working in the nearby Winne, Beaumont and Port Arthur communities and worked to send USO Care Packages to the Houston area to provide a touch of home to service members – particularly those who had little time to pack personal care items before heading to duty.

As of September 24, the Mobile USO team has completed its mission in Southeast Texas.

Hurricane Harvey Deja Vous

Unfortunately, Southeast Texas isn’t new to dramatic flooding caused by tropical weather.

In September 2016, the region received a record amount of rainfall and suffered historic flooding from Hurricane Harvey. As the military worked for weeks to assist with cleanup efforts in the area, the USO was there, too.

Shortly after Harvey made landfall, the Mobile USO team was on the ground to help service members relax, connect to loved ones with free wifi and stock up on snacks and hygiene items.

The Mobile USO program team hands out snacks and cold beverages to service members at Fort Swift, the staging location for much of the military’s Harvey relief efforts.

Then, during the weeks-long Harvey cleanup, the USO Houston team provided a variety of support services throughout the region and even opened a temporary center at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base so they could provide core USO services like video games, movies, snacks and cold beverages to service members working in the military’s staging area.

The USO Houston team also received an outpouring of support from the local community, including the Houston Astros Foundation, who sponsored dinners at the temporary center.