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World & Nation

An on-air rescue, and other memorable scenes from Houston’s historic floods

Severe flooding in Houston
Wilford Martinez, right, is rescued from his flooded car by Richard Wagner of the Harris County Sheriff’s Department along Interstate 610 in floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey on Sunday.
(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

Tropical Storm Harvey’s assault on southwest Texas has displaced thousands of residents and killed at least five people — and officials have cautioned that the devastation is far from over.

But already, the chaos of the storm has created a series of memorable moments. Here are three.

The reporter who rescued a truck driver

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As they moved through Houston on Sunday, covering the flooding, TV reporter Brandi Smith and cameraman Mario Sandoval spotted an 18-wheeler submerged in water near George W. Bush International Airport.

The water on the freeway ramp nearly touched the clearance sign on a nearby overpass, which was nearly 17 feet high. Items floated inside the truck’s cab. The driver was barely visible.

Moments later, a pickup truck with the Harris County Sheriff’s Department logo appeared in the distance, and it was towing a boat. Smith perked up and ran across the rain-pelted highway.

“We have a boat coming! We have a boat coming!” Smith told viewers.

Drawing even with the sheriff’s vehicle, she asked: “Are you guys headed down to the truck? There’s a truck driver stuck here in about 10 feet of water.”

As rescuers began to assess the situation, the signal from their station, KHOU-TV, cut out. The CBS affiliate’s newsroom near downtown Houston had flooded, and the station's signal went dead for nearly seven hours.

But Smith and Sandoval continued filming and later posted the video on Facebook. It shows the rescue team guiding a small boat toward the truck and pulling up next to the passenger window.

“I feel like I can finally breathe,” Smith said as the driver wriggled out. “He is OK.”

The flooded nursing home

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A photo that went viral Sunday showed at least eight elderly people submerged in murky water in an assisted living home.

One woman sat on her walker, staring at the water. Another reclined in an overstuffed chair, knitting or doing needlework. A black-and-white cat perched on a couch against a far wall, out of the water’s reach.

The facility, La Vita Bella, is in Dickinson, Texas, between Houston and Galveston. Kim McIntosh, the daughter of the facility’s owner, told CNN that officials had instructed them not to evacuate.

“Most of these people are in wheelchairs and [on] oxygen,” McIntosh said.

The photo sparked outrage from hundreds of Twitter and Facebook users, who called and contacted officials to demand that the residents be rescued before something more dire happened.

More than a dozen residents were evacuated from the nursing home around noon, about three hours after the photo was first posted, an official with the Galveston County Emergency Operations Center said.

The dog who packed his own food

As the small town of Sinton, Texas, picked up Saturday morning after the storm, resident Tiele Dockens noticed something unexpected: a dog trotting down the street, carrying a bag of dog food in its mouth.

Dockens snapped a photo and posted it to Facebook. By Sunday afternoon, it had been shared more than 30,000 times.

The dog, Otis, had been left on a screened-in porch on Friday night but sneaked away during the storm, his caretaker told the Houston Chronicle. He came home Saturday, still carrying the bag of food, said Salvador Segovia, 65.

Otis, a German shepherd mix, belongs to Segovia’s 5-year-old grandson, and he’s something of a local celebrity.

"Otis can go to Dairy Queen and he can get a hamburger,” Segovia said. “He's the only dog allowed to lie down in front of the county courthouse.”

He added, “He's a good dog.”

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