November 14, 2019

How a small town banded together to rescue one another after Hurricane Harvey

Massive flooding left dozens of residents stranded in this small Texas town. A few friends—and a couple of tractors and some boats—came to the rescue.

Dot and Clarence Arnold lived in their Sour Lake, Texas, home for 53 years. In August 2017, they lost everything—clothes, furniture, family photos. Five decades of the memorabilia of their lives were washed away in the massive flooding brought on by one of the most vicious storms in recorded U.S. history.

When Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on Aug. 25, 2017, it dropped about a year’s worth of rain in just a four-day period. Across the state, tens of thousands of people required rescue and an estimated 300,000 buildings were damaged.

In the small town of Sour Lake, about 70 miles northeast of Houston, the flooding was so bad that many residents were trapped in their houses, unable to escape on streets that began to look more like rivers.

“We pulled together as a community and let everyone lean on each other." — Kara Kraft, Allstate agent in Sour Lake, Texas

Brent Walters, an Allstate agent who lives in Sour Lake, realized that he could go out in the neighborhood in an industrial tractor that was tall enough to get through the water. It began with just a couple neighbors who flagged him down—soon, he and his brother and friends were running routine rescue missions around the town, using their tractors, and eventually small boats to get people and their pets out of flooded, dangerous houses. In all they estimated that they rescued about 200 people, including the Arnolds.

[ Read more: Five female leaders are rebuilding Houston after Harvey ]

“We heard a banging on the door, I started walking down the hall and the water was up to my legs,” said Dot Arnold. “I had on my pajamas, and we didn’t have anything prepared. We didn’t have our medicine, no clothes, no nothing.”

Walters pulled his boat right up to the Arnold’s house and lifted the couple to safety.

“You kind of see people in a vulnerable state at that point,” he said. “We have the resources. We’re blessed enough to be able to do stuff like that. It’s a little scary too because people would have drowned if we didn’t jump to it.”

Watch Brent’s story and see how Sour Lake pulled together to keep each other safe and help each other recover, in the video above.

The Renewal Project

The Renewal Project, made possible by Allstate, tells the stories of individuals and organizations who are solving problems in their communities.