Assisted living residents rescued by power of social media

Eighteen people in a Texas assisted living center were rescued by the power of social media Sunday amid unprecedented flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey, which struck the east coast of Texas Friday night as a Category 4 hurricane.

Most of the world could only guess what was happening in Dickinson, Texas, between Galveston and Houston this weekend. Then Sunday morning a photo appeared on Twitter and spread like wildfire across the internet.

The image shows eight people at the La Vita Bella assisted living center, some in wheelchairs, sitting up to their waists in flood water. The image was so dramatic and unbelieveable that many Twitter posters at first thought it was a cruel photoshopping trick.

With emergency phone lines jammed and local rescue personnel overwhelmed, the facility’s owner, Trudy Lampson, sent the image to her son-in-law in a desperate attempt to get the attention of someone who could raise the priority level for the site and rescue the residents. Her son-in-law, Timothy McIntosh, posted it on Twitter along with a plea for help, “Need help asap emergency services please RETWEET.” The post was retweeted more than 4,000 times in just 24 hours.

Emergency personnel pushed the facility to top priority status and evacuated the residents within hours. “We were air-lifting grandmothers and grandfathers,” Dickinson emergency management coordinator David Popoff told the Galveston County Daily News.

Emergency personnel kept McIntosh, who lives in Florida, informed of the progress by email. "We were very fortunate and are thankful for all the retweets, media contacts, and especially the promptness of Galveston emergency services along with the National Guard. All together, they saved many lives today," they said in an email.

Former Hurricane Harvey isn't done yet. While the storm surge and violent winds associated with the initial landfall has devastated towns like Rockport, Texas, regions further northeast will see catastrophic damage from flooding. The especially flood-prone city of Houston is already seeing its worst flooding in history.

"The breadth and intensity of this rainfall are beyond anything experienced before," the National Weather Service said in a statement Sunday. "Catastrophic flooding is now underway and expected to continue for days."



Topics: Articles , Disaster Preparedness , Risk Management