Hurricane Harvey and the District 6 Director Report

by Thomas Zampieri

On August 28, the weather forecasters warned of a tropical storm named Harvey that was growing in strength and heading towards the Gulf Coast. By Wednesday it had grown to a category 3 hurricane and was gathering force to directly hit southeastern Texas Even worse, because of a strong front, Harvey was predicted to stall in eastern Texas for up to five days. The locals in Houston knew trouble was coming in regards to possible widespread flooding.


Flood waters in front of the house of a blinded veteran, the water can be seen completely covering the roads and ground reaching all houses pictured.

Flood waters in front of the house of a blinded veteran, the water can be seen completely covering the roads and ground reaching all houses pictured.


As many BVA members and families have since heard on the national news, Harvey will go down as having the most rainfall in any American storm, shattering all records with a total of 51.5 inches of rainfall in just over four days. Countless homes, roads, highways and businesses were flooded causing the loss of many lives. The Greater Houston Regional Group of BVA was at ground zero of this storm for five days of rain, wind gusts of 145 mph and witness to 790 billion gallons of rainfall hitting our region in the first three days, the equivalent of all the water going over Niagara Falls for 15 days. BVA members were being flooded out of their homes and moved to evacuation centers. First responders, fire, police, Coast Guardsmen and volunteers were working non-stop to rescue those caught in the rising floodwaters, including 1,800 blind or low vision veterans in this small area.

I have been coordinating with BVA national on the rising toll as all this was taking place and the executive director suggested that we establish a BVA Emergency Relief Fund as a first attempt to meet our motto—“Blinded Veterans Helping Blinded Veterans.” Within 24 hours, BVA social media and web site announced that BVA national would take donations to help cover this massive disaster and provide assistance to those impacted.

Starting with phone calls and emails to the VA medical center VISOR staff, we started planning for a Greater Houston Regional Group BVA meeting on Saturday, September 9th. Members impacted could get information on various city, county, state, and federal agency programs to assist them. The task of rebuilding shattered lives began immediately with the knowledge that no one organization would be able to do everything. But by working in cooperation with the City of Houston’s Mayors Office for the Disabled and other local officials, we brought together the expertise and organizations that could help our fellow blinded veterans and their families.

The resulting stories are amazing as many veterans around Texas used social media to gather volunteer rescue groups. Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans drove hundreds of miles with boats and high wheeled vehicles bringing emergency equipment, water and food supplies to affected areas and performed numerous rescues. They arrived with one purpose only, to save the lives of fellow Texans. The volunteers know that it will take a long time to get homes rebuilt and lives back to a normal routine, and that it requires neighbors helping Texans in this time of need to start that process moving forward.


BVA members from Houston and their spouses meeting with representatives from FEMA in a classroom type setting.

BVA members from Houston and their spouses meeting with representatives from FEMA in a classroom type setting.


This isn’t the usual district director report on activities that occur over a region and Harvey has for sure made us aware of how things can change so quickly and make us recognize that we must stand together to make things better. In future BVA bulletins we will have photographs and updates on the status of things here in Houston. We thank everyone for all your emails and calls of concern.


BVA members from Houston and their spouses meeting with representatives from FEMA in a classroom type setting.

BVA members from Houston and their spouses meeting with representatives from FEMA in a classroom type setting.


Audio Version Of Hurricane Harvey and the District 6 Director Report