Parker County Today October 2017 - Page 94

Our Heroes: Hobsons Helping Harvey’s Victims Local Businessman Makes a Flying Difference in South Texas Brett Hobson BY MELISSA MOORMAN P 92 ilot and business owner Brett Hobson never expected to see the incredible need in his home state that he witnessed firsthand while flying his antique airplane to South Texas. Hobson is part owner of a DC-3 airplane used to deliver over 82,000 pounds of medical supplies into South Texas after Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas Gulf Coast on Aug. 25 th of this year. His plane was the largest private airplane involved in the relief efforts, with Hobson flying 15 trips into the storm- ravaged areas to distribute much-needed supplies to fellow Texans. Hobson didn’t hesitate to begin assisting with relief efforts. “A friend of mine from Fort Worth named John Wolfe was putting together a group to do relief. Then we were contacted by the Texas Baptist Men’s Association out of Cleburne. So, my friend and I got together and combined our efforts,” Hobson said. The group flew in and out of West Houston Executive, Hawthorne and Beaumont airports, among others, after picking up donations that had already been loaded on pallets ready for delivery. Volunteers would determine the capacity of each plane and make sure they weren’t overloaded. “It was mainly medical stuff, over the counter medication and mosquito spray. It was like a third-world country. We had to spray ourselves down when we landed,” he said. The materials were sorted by volunteers as soon as they were unloaded, which took about an hour. “We would unload out of the airplane and it went straight to the people who needed it,” he continued. Many of the relief groups send donations to centralized warehouses wh ere it can take up to a week to get the items redistributed. More than 300 private planes distributed donated supplies to areas where truck traffic was difficult or impossible because of downed trees or flooding. Some of the pilots brought planes from the West Coast or Arizona. “One even came filled with pizza for the relief work- ers,” Hobson said. Hobson’s plane, built in 1942, saw duty in World War II before being converted back to civilian use, even serving as the executive plane to the President of Mexico. “It was like Mexico’s Air Force One,” he said. Usually, the DC-3 is used for tours, air shows and parachute drops. In fact, Hobson and his plane were at an air show in Michigan when Harvey hit. When people at the show found out he was from Texas, more than half of his first plane full of items came from the people attending the air show or those from the Michigan area that just wanted to help. The relief mission to South Texas was an eye-opener to the pilot with 30 years of flying experience. “It’s the first time we’ve ever done that, and it wasn’t what we expected,” said Hobson, as they saw flooding in places as far inland as Beaumont. Although the city lies more than 30 miles from the Gulf Coast, the flooding overwhelmed the city and was incredibly slow to recede. According to information from the Weather Channel, “It was the slow movement from Aug. 26-30 that led to the catastrophic flooding that was observed in southeast Texas. It is very unlikely that we will see the name ‘Harvey’ used again for another tropi- cal cyclone due to its extreme damage and devastation along the Gulf Coast.” Rebuilding has started in South Texas, but the effects of Harvey will be felt for years to come. Because of the storm’s severity and the many areas [hit] that were outside the flood plain, 85 percent of people don’t have insurance to cover the damage. Hobson even said that he fears that some of it won’t ever be rebuilt. When asked what we can do now to help, he said, “Give money to a local charity or a church with ties to South Texas. Make sure you know where your money is going. Find someplace that you know the things will go to the people who need them. If you know someone in those areas they will need building materials, appliances, everything that is in a house.” He was very impressed with the people he met along the way. “The people who were making the donations were the most giving people. And I hardly heard anyone asking for anything. They weren’t demanding things. From the time we arrived to the airport it took less than four hours at the most to get the donations to the people that needed them. The most important thing I saw was just how good the American people are,” he continued. Private pilots are continuing to work in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean because of the busy storm season we have had. Wolfe’s group, called Operation Airdrop, was up to over 850 pilots who will be ready when the next disaster hits. “We learned how to do a better job next time. To become better organized, to get information and get donations. To get word out faster,” according to Hobson. P.S. We want to be your air-conditioning and heating professionals.