Sussex responds to IRHS grad’s post to aid in Harvey recovery

HOUSTON, TX – Rescue has given way to recovery in flood-ravaged coastal Texas devastated by Hurricane Harvey.

As Emergency Medical Services chief for Fort Bend County, Texas, former Sussex Countian Victor “Graig” Temple experienced the wrath of the storm.

Indian River High School graduate Graig Temple is chief of the Fort Bend County EMS located in the immediate Houston area.

“Over the course of the multi-day event when Harvey decided to hang out in our area, we did over 560 calls for service in a three-day period, which is unheard for our service,” said Mr. Temple. “We provided transportation for quite a few of the victims that were pulled out of the flood waters and took care of them.”

The Temple family home in Spring, Texas, about 30 miles north of Houston was not impacted by historic flooding spawned by upward of 40 inches of rain.

Some of his EMS staff members weren’t so lucky.

“My staff; I’ve got about 13 that were severely impacted. They are still in the recovery phase, trying to identify what truly their needs are. They are staying with family right now; most of them are,” said Mr. Temple.

Amid flooding, devastation and loss are waves of support from southern Delaware. A former Sussex County paramedic, Mr. Temple is a past fire chief/lifetime member of Millville Volunteer Fire Company, a 1993 Indian River High School graduate and 2016 Indian River High School Hall of Fame inductee.

“I put just a simple post up on my Facebook and it has gotten a lot of support from my friends back on the east coast and Delaware with the fire service and EMS. I know a lot of people are sending down gift cards and things like that, so people can go to Lowe’s and Home Depot to get supplies that are needed for rebuilding,” said Mr. Temple. “It is a small world when disaster strikes. Everybody wants to pitch in and help and that is fantastic. When I put a simple message out on Facebook a number of friends, co-workers and colleagues from the fire and EMS agencies that I have been associated with in my career, they jumped right into action. The Sussex County paramedics, I worked for them for eight years as well as all the volunteers that I have been associated with. They are sending out gift cards and things like that specifically for my staff members who were affected so we can get them back on their feet.”

“The First State is definitely stepping up and I really appreciate that personally and professionally,” said Mr. Temple.

Fort Bend County butts right against the city of Houston. “We were severely impacted due to the hurricane event itself but as well as the major damage because of the Brazos River,” said Mr. Temple. “The phase right now is called ‘muck and gut,’ where they are cleaning up all of the muck and gutting all of the houses and replacing it with dry wall and things like that – and putting the debris out for removal by teams to come in.”

Mr. Temple moved to Texas in 2010 with his family. He has been working for Fort Bend County for almost three years.

His wife is a nurse at one of the local hospitals.

“Because of the flooding and the secondary river flooding, three of the hospitals had to close because they were at risk of becoming inundated with water. That then led to a problem because in Fort Bend County we became somewhat landlocked because of the flooding. So, we had to call for a federal disaster medical team. We were able to secure that through FEMA,” Mr. Temple said. “They set up an emergency room, like a field M*A*S*H hospital right next to our administrative building. We were able to transport patients to that field hospital because the hospitals in the county could not accept any more patients. We could basically field triage them, bring them into the field hospital where we had doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses that were able to stabilize them. Then we’d call in helicopters to fly them out to hospitals that were outside of the area. That was a true godsend.”

Massive flooding in Fort Bend County in the Houston area of Texas.

Texas A&M University had a drone service for search and rescue. “They were assigned to our office of emergency management,” he said.

Mr. Temple has now experienced two of the most destructive tropical cyclones in United States history. He was deployed during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“When I was living back east I was a paramedic down in Ocean City. We got sent to Katrina,” said Mr. Temple. “I was comparing the two myself and this is very much ‘Katrina-esque’ with the amount of flooding and the problems we have with all the levies. They’ve had to let the levies loose to start draining those down, which is also causing residual flooding to homes. That is actually where some of my staff members have lost their homes because of the release of levies causing flooding in certain subdivisions.”

Mr. Temple said one evacuation will stick with him forever.

A 10-month-old child in the neonatal intensive care unit at a local hospital needed to be evacuated immediately with the storm fast approaching and that hospital facing evacuation.

“The nearest place he could go was up near College Station. They only way to get there was by helicopter,” said Mr. Temple. “We were able to get the Coast Guard to come in, evacuate him to the airport and fly him right out during the bands of all of the storms. The Coast Guard did a phenomenal job. They are truly the missing link we had during the initial onset of the storm. When they were able to evacuate this little NICU patient, that was truly inspiring. He needed specialized care. They accepted the mission. They accomplished the mission. I’ll definitely remember that for the rest of my career.”

Mr. Temple said the magnitude of destruction and need is immense.

For links and contacts, visit Mr. Temple’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009796446815.

Video of Fort Bend County flooding is accessible on You Tube.

“The whole coast line has been hit whether it was from the torrential downpour – over 40 inches of rain – or the hurricane winds in some areas, so there are so many people that need help,” he said.

Ways to help are to support food banks and organizations like The Salvation Army and American Red Cross, Mr. Temple said.

Help is not exclusive to humans, he said.

“In Fort Bend County, our animal shelter, they need a lot of help with food and things like that because a lot of animals were displaced or left behind as families evacuated,” said Mr. Temple. “I know our animal shelter has a very small budget in the county so they are looking for food donations and things like that to help offset costs for housing the animals.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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