Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Residents take trip to help Harvey victims


September 6, 2017

Portales Fire Department 2nd Lt. Gary Rains, left, and Fire Chief Gary Nuckols prepare a pallet of water to be loaded.

PORTALES - Tyler Lucas intended to bring a single small trailer of supplies for the hurricane-stricken communities on the Texas Gulf Coast. He started that effort Thursday morning, and by Sunday evening he and four others departed for Houston hauling about 40,000 pounds of water and food.

"I said if I was going to go down there I might as well take some supplies with me, and it kind of just blew up from there," said Lucas, a Clovis firefighter. "I was definitely surprised by the support we got from the community and local businesses."

Portales Fire Chief Gary Nuckols estimated the value of the supplies donated by area residents and businesses to exceed $100,000.

"This is by far the largest effort I have ever participated in, not just with the fire department but in my life," he said. "I knew people would turn out, but what they turned out and brought is what really surprised and overwhelmed us. Our truck room basically turned into a packing and shipping terminal for about four straight days, with an assembly line packing boxes as fast they can ... We went from a small hand operation to an industrial operation with large equipment."

Donations from local grocery stores, churches and individuals amounted to 12 pallets of water, 14 pallets of food, "a lot of clothing" and $1,500 cash, to include a loan of a tractor trailer and a semi-trailer to carry it out, said Nuckols.

Nuckols said the trip would not have been possible without those vehicle loans. The trailer and semi were donated for temporary use by Dennis Bear of Arch and Collin Chandler of Floyd, respectively.

The swiftness and volume of the community's response was well illustrated after officials asked for bread, added Nuckols.

"We put out a little campaign Saturday night that they were in desperate need of bread - because we had lots of donations of peanut butter and canned meat and so on and so forth, but nothing for them to put it on," he said. "By Sunday morning our truck room looked like literally a sea of bread. The community responded immediately and I don't believe our stores had much bread left other than hamburger and hot dog buns the next day."

All those supplies were carefully packed, shrinkwrapped and conveyed Monday morning to the town of Lumberton, about an hour east of Houston. Lucas and three Portales firefighter lieutenants - Dathan Culpepper, Scott Watson and Johnny Rains, as well as Rains' father, Gary - were en route back home the same day.

The contingent was originally destined for a food bank in Austin, but later decided to bring the resources directly to an outlying community that had previously experienced delays in service.

"We ended up talking to some missionaries that have churches east of Houston that serve four or five different communities very much like Portales, and we were able to take that food directly to them," said Nuckols. "It actually dropped right where the need was, where the people were hungry. That to me is the best part of the mission."

Lucas said much of the damaged areas were cordoned off as he came into town, but he was struck by the turnout from responders across the country.

"The only thing that really stuck out in our minds as fas the disaster going on was a very large presence from outside communities," he said. "There were a lot of fire engines and police cars form as far away as Indiana and Forth Worth, just from all over the country."

There are others from eastern New Mexico also assisting with relief efforts, and planning to stay in the area for a while.

Mark Myers left Monday afternoon with "a couple of trucks and a couple of milk trailers," part of a collaboration between Western Dairy Transport and MyMar Terminal Service Trucks. Normally the two are business competitors, said Myers, but they worked together this week out of a mutual interest in "helping the humanitarian effort."

This is Myers' first effort assisting a disaster area, but he said he's prepared to stick it out as long as necessary. His destination was Beaumont, where the trucks would service a "15,000-person refugee camp.

"I have set up things so we can stay out there pretty much as long as they need us - nine months or whatever," he said. "We've got our tents and our water and our MREs with us so we're ready for whatever."

Those efforts are supported and at least partly compensated by FEMA funds, which also supported another truck convoy led by Portales' Ryan Ainsworth.

This is not Ainsworth's first rodeo. His company, "Ryan's Water Service," has assisted with numerous disaster responses, including oil spills, tornados, forest fires and other hurricanes.

He specializes in hauling fresh drinking water to camps of displaced persons, and vacuuming away gray water from the temporary showers and laundry sites. Six individuals from Clovis and Portales accompanied Ainsworth west on Saturday, and five more are expected.

Running six full tanks loads each morning and night, the company - also financed by FEMA - is moving about 70 thousand gallons of fresh water daily.

"Give it another two weeks and we'll be doing a quarter million gallons a day," he said.


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