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Port High grad barely escapes Harvey’s reach PDF Print E-mail
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Written by JOHN MORTON   
Wednesday, 06 September 2017 18:55

Just feet from flooding, Houston resident Mary Jo Maciejewski pitches in to help in hurricane aftermath

Twelve feet.
That’s how close flood waters were to the apartment complex where Mary Jo Maciejewski lives.
“I was so fortunate,” Maciejewski, a 1996 graduate of Port Washington High School who has lived six years in Houston, said by phone Sunday. “But further down my street a bit there was four feet of water. You saw people wading through it or moving along in kayaks.
“You had people standing on one side of the road, staring at people standing on the other side of the road, not knowing what to do, waiting to be rescued. The street was a river. It was all surreal.”
Maciejewski, who lives in the northern part of the city just inside the Interstate 610 loop, lost power for 36 hours as the result of the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. She was able to charge her cell phone in her car, allowing her to inform people both in Houston and back home in Wisconsin that she was safe. She was among several Texans from the Port area who used the Facebook page “I Grew up in Port Washington” to spread the word.
The rescue efforts, Maciejewski said, often included Black Hawk helicopters hovering above her building, maneuvering to make a landing.
“That was intense,” she said. “They were picking people up and dropping them off anywhere it was dry.”
LAKE LGMaciejewski, who’s an educational therapist and a registered Red Cross volunteer, worked last Tuesday and Wednesday in a shelter to assist those in need.
“I got to know some of the families and heard so many stories. People were there from all over the place,” she said.
Her shelter specialized in providing hygiene products and baby needs.
“The number of things donated was amazing. We had six breast pumps, bassinets, and every type of baby formula,” Maciejewski said. “Things arrived quickly and they were abundant.”
She also heard stories of survival from some of her school families.
“One of them were forced from their house because it was hit by one of the tornadoes that followed the hurricane, and another sent me a video of them being taken from their home by fan boats,” she said. “Their house will remain flooded for months, they told me.
“For a lot of people, there’s still a long ways to go.”
Patty Flowers, a Cedarburg resident who serves as CEO of the American Red Cross’s Wisconsin chapter, will be among those who will help them overcome the chaos. On Friday, she left for southeast Texas for a mission of mercy that will last at least two weeks.
“I’ve seen some amazing damage,” Flowers said Sunday night by phone. “The photos you see on TV don’t do it justice. You’ve got to see it in person to understand the severity. We’re talking about homes with water up to the roof. There’s absolute destruction.”
After landing in Houston, Flowers was assigned to a shelter in nearby Beaumont but couldn’t leave for two days until the water receded on the roads leading there.
“It still was a scary drive — they had to keep closed two of the lanes of a four-lane highway and kept just two of them open. Still, the water was right up to the edge of the road,” she said. “When I got to Beaamont, it was eerie. Not a single business was open. No one had water because the flood waters overran the system.”
Flowers’ job is to check on shelters like the one where Maciejewski volunteered, making sure they are stocked properly with supplies and workers. Her next stop was a town an hour north called Lufkin.
“It normally would have taken an hour to get there, but we had to take all sorts of detours to get around the flooding,” she said. “So it took three hours.”
Among her challenges was to get some special baby formula to a mother and infant who were stranded in their house.
“We flew in two boxes of formula to them by helicopter,” she said. “That was a special delivery all right. The number of resources being utilized is incredible. Everything is being done to help people.”
Flowers is also impressed by the character of those impacted by the flooding.
“I’ve received so many hugs from people, thanking me,” she said. “With all they’ve been through, it’s truly special to see them doing that.”

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