Minnesota’s Davids Hydro Vac owner and family travel south to help with rescue efforts following Hurricane Harvey
Michael Morehouse kept his eye on the news as Hurricane Harvey approached Texas. Having grown up in Houston and with family still there, he was worried about what was going to happen.
After the storm hit land and flooding began, the owner of Davids Hydro Vac in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, knew he had to do something to help. On the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 29, Morehouse and some of his family decided to make the trek from central Minnesota to Houston to provide aid.
“I wanted to go help, I was experienced,” Morehouse says. “I’m not going to say it’s just like what we do every day, but it is in a way. When we’re running our hydrovacs we’re helping people every day. Except now, what we’re doing in Texas is more noticeable.”
THE TRIP SOUTH
“My brother and dad and I were all packed and hit the road at 1 p.m. that afternoon and we drove straight through,” Morehouse says. “We knew we had to get down there and help family and friends and everyone else down there. I felt like if we went down we’d be able to help because we’re from the area.”
Before heading out, Morehouse found and bought a 14-foot shallow-water duck boat and trailer to take with them on the 24-hour trek to the south. Morehouse, his brother and stepdad — Anthony and Victor Chavez — took turns driving throughout the night to reach Houston early Wednesday morning. Morehouse took on most of the driving duties having the experience of working late with Davids.
Throughout the drive down the three continued to try to reach family and friends in Houston, including Morehouse’s grandfather who lived near the Buffalo Bayou, one of the many areas that flooded during the hurricane and after.
After a while, they were finally able to reach the grandfather and his caretaker. “They had done some updates to his location not so long ago, so he was safe,” Morehouse says. “Until we got a hold of them we were flying down the freeway wondering if the most important reason we were here, my grandfather, was OK. Once we found out he was OK and safe it put us a little more at ease.”
When the trio arrived in Houston Aug. 30, they could see the devastation immediately. The waters were flowing fast on the streets, garbage floating and people using boats to go from home to home looking for anyone who needed help.
“When you see water gushing out of a sewer like Old Faithful, you’re wondering where that water is coming from,” Morehouse says. “The only time I’ve ever seen anything like that is when I’m running a jetter through a sewer pipe.”
WANTING TO HELP
Morehouse, Anthony and Victor checked on family first and then reported to a checkpoint to get signed up to help. “When we showed up we changed into our wet gear and we went right at it,” Morehouse says.
The three checked in at one of the many checkpoints for rescue boats and began working with the “Cajun Navy.” The Cajun Navy is a group of volunteers from Louisiana that made its way to Houston after authorities asked for help.
“We were using a phone app called Zello, which shows where people need help and that got us heading in the right direction on the first day there,” Morehouse says. “Once we figured out where everything was taking place and when they were releasing the levees, we were able to know where we were going to spend the day.”
Much of their time was spent in the Cypress, Katy and Briar Forest areas of Houston — mostly on the west side of the city.
“We spent the days rescuing people from homes, shuttling people, saving their animals and just getting them supplies,” Morehouse says. “A lot of these people don’t know what they’re going to do now. Their lives have changed. They don’t know what to do now or who to call.”
On Friday, a day in which they thought they wouldn’t have a lot to do, the three ended up helping a group of women get some needed medicine. The boat was needed to get the women from their home to the checkpoint where medicines were being distributed.
“I can’t express the feelings that I have,” Morehouse says. “It’s just a bag full of mixed emotions. You’re happy you’re here to help, but you’re sad because their lives are damaged and it’s going to be hard for them. Now the real struggle is here, building it back up.”
TIME TO HELP
If this had happened five years ago, chances are it would’ve been harder for Morehouse to break away from his hydroexcavation company in Minnesota. He was running the company with just he, his wife and a handful of other employees and doing much of the digging work himself.
In the past five years his company has grown so large that he now has a solid crew of managers and employees who can step in and run the company. In fact, Morehouse doesn’t even run a machine anymore.
“I’m in a different position than I was five years ago,” Morehouse says. “Because I did have the support of my team members and everyone at Davids, I knew I could break away and help these people. I felt like they were going to have my back up there and everything was going to go good, so I didn’t even hesitate.”
In fact, while he was helping residents in Houston, Davids Hydro Vac crews were kept busy with a hydroexcavation and jetting job at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and with a job digging a tunnel under a hotel for a new pool restroom.
“I’m proud of everyone at Davids,” Morehouse says. “I couldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. Every one of them is working right now and doing what they need to do everyday and for that I am grateful.”
THE RETURN HOME
Morehouse, Anthony and Victor made their way back home late Friday night. The three were back at work at Davids already on Monday morning.
While what they saw was gut wrenching, as Anthony told the FOX TV station in Houston, they did see some good moments while in Houston.
“The biggest thing I saw is just a bunch of Americans gathering together,” Morehouse says. “Not just Texans, but Americans having each other’s backs. The biggest story is the love and camaraderie that goes along with this. It’s unfortunate that it comes with this event, but it’s awesome to see America helping.”
Editor’s Note: Check out Davids Hydro Vac’s Facebook page for videos from Morehouse and photos from their time in Houston.