Jason Salsman/Multimedia Producer
MCN rescue team lends a hand with hurricane relief in Texas
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — So here’s a final tally of what Hurricane Harvey produced: 50-plus inches of rain in less than a week, approximately $75 billion in damages to the Texas Coastal Bend, and an estimated 30,000 people in need of temporary shelter.
But just one ‘Mvskoke Navy.’
The Muscogee (Creek) Nation Lighthorse Tribal Police Department combined with the MCN Emergency Management’s first response team to send manpower, equipment and rescue aid to the Houston area. The 11 volunteers, including LTPD Chief Robert Hawkins and Emergency Management Supervisor James Nichols departed on the morning of Aug. 29 and returned home safely on Sept. 3.
“First thing I can say is it’s very humbling to be in a situation like we were in, that there was so much devastation,” said Nichols. “The damage is catastrophic. The pictures we see on other news outlets and media, it doesn’t do it justice until you see first-hand what the hurricane actually did.”
The MCN team coordinated with the Oklahoma Office of Emergency Management once they arrived and joined a large contingency of Oklahoma first responders and volunteers while awaiting their mission orders. MCN was one of three tribal units within the Oklahoma crew.
“The people… they were just so appreciative of us, from Oklahoma being there and then when they learned of tribal Nations coming together and helping they were even more impressed,” said Nichols.
According to Hawkins, LTPD and Emergency Management together are fortunate to have acquired the necessary tools it takes to be called on to assist in times of need like this. They took rescue boats, ATVs and swift water rescue gear in addition to the manpower efforts.
“We are fortunate to have equipment and resources that we can provide to other areas,” said Hawkins. “Not just here in our area. There’s probably 600-plus Creek citizens in that (Houston) area.”
Nichols believes though he and his team would rather not ever have to be dispatched to such areas under the circumstances, that it is inevitable in his line of work. And that each time he and his crew are called upon, they get that much better at what they’re doing and learn a little more from each scenario.
In other words, they have the training, but real-life experience is far more valuable in improving their work.
“We learned a lot of things,” he said. “Things we didn’t know we could do that we did.”
Each day, the MCN team was given its assignments. Most centered on rescue efforts but also included first aid responsibility and equipment maintenance. The largest mission they took part in was on Sept. 2. In eight hours time, the Oklahoma contingency covered over 15 square miles and provided assistance to over 4,200 homes door-to-door.
Each time they were met with residents that were not only ecstatic to be rescued, but also gracious for help from a fellow state and tribal Nation.
“We went down there and we took care of Texas. As far as a group, as far as a tribal Nation we’d be happy to go back there and help if they called us again,” said Nichols.
That may be exactly what happens. The hurricane’s aftermath looks to be just a devastating as its landfall. The recovery process will be both lengthy and arduous. And now, with the devastation in Florida from Hurricane Irma, relief funds and crews will be stressed to match the need.
A story in ‘USA Today,’ indicated that roughly less than 20 percent of the residents affected in Houston are covered with flood insurance. There are an estimated 450,000 people from Harvey alone that will request FEMA assistance.
So there may be a need to return and help rebuild.
There may be a need to call on this group once again.
And there may be a new wing needed at the MCN Veteran’s Building for the ‘Mvskoke Navy.’