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Fishing Heroes Aiding Hurricane Relief Efforts

Fishing Heroes Aiding Hurricane Relief Efforts

America has felt the enormous impact of not one, but two major hurricanes in the past two weeks.  These storms have affected everyone, whether you live in an affected area, have family or friends that live in these areas, or simply empathize with the tens of millions of Americans who have been displaced or impacted by these two storms of historical proportions.

Hurricane Harvey makes landfall in coastal TX (August 2017)

While many news outlets have covered the destruction and violent nature of these storms as well as the response from aid organizations, there is another story which strikes to the heart of what it means to be selfless, compassionate, and heroic.  Its effects extend beyond what we can see and touch;  it changes lives on a level that is rarely talked about on the nightly news.  It defines service before self.  It is what brings us together.

This is the story of people helping people.

While Hurricane Harvey dumped a record-breaking amount of rainfall on the gulf coast of Texas, the plea from those lives in danger was consistent:  we need to be rescued and are only reachable by boat.  The storm dumped up to 51 inches of rain in some areas, flooding neighborhoods and cities alike.  Nature sent its very worst to a country that hasn't responded to a hurricane of this magnitude in 12 years.

The WCU Bass Cats & Nolan Greenwood

Western Carolina University, a public university located about 40 miles to the Southwest of Asheville, NC, just outside the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, is home to about 10,000 students.  Just like most universities, there are a number of clubs and teams which students with similar interests and abilities can join.  The WCU Bass Cats fishing team is one of these clubs.

WCU Bass Cats Fishing Team aiding Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts 2017
(Photo Credit: Bass Fishing Club at WCU)

During their 2nd club meeting of the academic year, only a day after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, a request was brought up: is there anyone with a boat who could help out the rescue efforts?  It was at this meeting that 10 the Bass Cats team members decided that they were willing to donate their time and boats and immediately started planning.  The next 12 hours were spent deciding how and when they were going to get there and help.

The team made the 14+ hour overnight drive to Lake Charles, LA, just over the TX border with 4 boats towed by 4 trucks filled with as many relief supplies as the team could transport.  They ended up at the parking lot of the Lake Charles Civic Center with many others just like themselves: people who were trying to help in whatever way they could. The date was Wednesday, August 30, 2017, just 4 days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 major hurricane over Texas.

It was there that they met up with Nolan Greenwood.  Nolan is a father of triplets who works at a Louisiana pipeline surveying company.  Nolan is also an avid fisherman who owns a boat and just knew that he had to help these people who were trapped in their homes.  So he and his brother-in-law set off with their boat in tow to make the 4 hour drive to Lake Charles where he just happened to meet up with the Bass Cats.

The team of 12 now had 5 boats, 5 trucks, and no plan or idea of what they would face next.  In the wind and the rain they met up and together began using an app called Zello to listen into local radio channels being put out by emergency officials.  So they set out on the 30 minute drive from Lake Charles to Orange, TX because they heard a lot of stories of people needing help there.  Nolan said "We will just see what happens.".  Well what they were about to see was the destruction of a town and the pleas from people in need.

Zach Tallent, Vice President of the Bass Cats, explained that the team's very first response was to a 90 year old elderly woman's house in Orange, TX where she was found immobile in a chair on the ground floor, water up to her legs.  The students hoisted her, wheelchair and all, into a bass fishing boat and brought her to dry land and medical services.

WCU Bass Cats Fishing Team aiding Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts Orange Texax 2017
(Photo Credit: Bass Fishing Club at WCU)

Watch the amazing footage of this rescue, taken by Nolan & his brother-in-law, Heath.  

At 10pm on the first day, Nolan responded to a call put over the radio from a single dad, his grandmother, and his 15 month old triplets who were in water and couldn't leave their house.  Nolan, only 2 miles away from where the family was calling for help, drove his truck with water up to its doors to find the family stranded.  About the triplets, Nolan said "I just wrapped them up like they were my own.  I just wanted to help.".

Over 30 people were rescued by the team and this was only on day 1 after the team had driven through the night.  After that first day, the team slept in their trucks in a Love's truck stop parking lot and then gathered the next day to do it all over again.  More flooding, more people in need, more rescues.

The unique situation of navigating a bass boat along streets and in places where usually only cars drive was extremely challenging.  Zach explains how they had to avoid sunken cars, vegetation, and never truly knowing what was beneath them. "I ran over a mailbox" Zach said.  Zach, I'm pretty certain nobody minded.

Flooding and devastation in Orange Texas after Hurricane Harvey 2017
(Photo Credit: Bass Fishing Club at WCU)

On day 2, the team set out for Vidor, TX, about 10 miles west of Orange.  It was here that the team found even more severe flooding than in Orange.

WCU Bass Cats Fishing Team aiding Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts 2017
(Photo Credit: Nolan Greenwood)

In the end, these heroes saved lives.  They directly led the efforts rescuing 41 people, 10 cows, and a cat.  They also assisted in providing support to local emergency medical services, sheriffs' agencies, and local fire & police departments. 

Zach explained " seeing how everybody else responded and helped really made me a appreciate where we are at.  People helping their neighbors shows their true colors."

WCU Bass Cats Fishing Team aiding Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts 2017
(Photo Credit: Nolan Greenwood)

The members who assisted relief and rescue efforts are: Nolan Greewood, Jason Ashe, Clint Bartlett, Jacob Boyd, Jack Crumpton, Will Crumpton, Austin Garren, Parker Jessup, Colby Shope, Zach Tallent, and Tyler Watts.

Speaking with Nolan about his work with the Bass Cats, he explained "I made friends for life with those guys.  I hope that we can keep in touch and they come see me and I'm able to go see them, wherever they are.".  Nolan has recently been mostly fishing for catfish, but did win a bass tournament in his youth and has done some redfishing & shark fishing as well.

Guys, team Zombait salutes you, your service, your sacrifice, and your heroism.  Your DIY rescue efforts are truly an example of how selflessness saves and impacts lives.

When the Bass Cats aren't saving lives and dedicating themselves to a cause greater than themselves, they just happen to love to fish.  We feel you on that one.

WCU Bass Cats Fishing Team catching bass(Photo Credit: Bass Fishing Club at WCU)

See the Bass Cats' official Facebook page for more information and how to support this team here.

Nolan is now part of Operation NEVER STOP. Donations can be made to help their cause of people helping people here.  They are currently on the ground in FL helping out with Hurricane Irma relief.

Here is Operation NEVER STOP's video of their Texas Relief Efforts.

With Hurricane Irma battering Florida, donations can be made to the American Red Cross here.  The relief efforts and humantarian aid is just starting to arrive and we are certain that more heroes will answer the call again.  If you know of anyone helping in FL, we'd love to feature them and donate to their cause.  Please let us know of anyone with a truly exceptional story of people helping people.  

Until next time,

Look Alive Out There.