Derrick Lewis didn’t like what he heard on the television news. Hurricane Harvey blasted Houston, dumping a continental U.S. record 50-plus inches of rain on his hometown, and did incalculable damage.
People were stranded everywhere. Water was waist high in the streets, putting children, the elderly and animals at risk of drowning.
On the news, the beleaguered police, overworked and stretched thin, pleaded with viewers not to call 911 unless it was a life or death emergency.
Preliminary record: Harvey has passed the 50” measured single-storm rainfall record for the continental US.
— NWS (@NWS) August 29, 2017
That moved Lewis, a UFC heavyweight contender, who didn’t simply sit around and wish his fellow citizens luck.
“I didn’t like what I heard and so I decided to get out there and help people,” Lewis told Yahoo Sports. “There were people everywhere who needed help. I just felt like I had to do something.”
Do something he has done. He’s spent the last several days driving around the north, west and southwest sections of Houston, rescuing those in need and doing whatever he could to help.
On Tuesday, he saved an elderly woman who had left her inhaler behind. She needed it desperately, but didn’t want Lewis to get stuck in the deep water near her home.
“She thought it was too much of a hassle for me to take her back to get her medication and her inhaler,” Lewis said. “I told her, ‘Don’t worry about it. It’s not a problem. I’m here to help you.’ This is one of those times when you just have to get out there and pitch in and help, do whatever you can.”
Whatever you do, though, don’t call Lewis a hero.
“I don’t look at myself as a hero and I don’t want people to call me a hero,” he said. “I’d seen what had happened [in August 2005 in New Orleans] with [Hurricane] Katrina and how bad that was. I never expected that to happen to Houston. There were so many people in trouble in Katrina and there was no one to help them.
“What I’m doing is just pitching in. There are people in my city in big trouble and I’m just going out doing what I can to help people who are in a bad situation and need help. It’s what we’re supposed to do, help others. I’m in a position I can do some good and help some people, and so I’m trying.”
Lewis said that while it’s raining in his neighborhood, there is little damage. His home hasn’t flooded or been damaged in any way by the hurricane.
Just a mile away in the next subdivision, though, it’s a different story. There is three to four feet of standing water and people are in desperate need.
Police are beyond capacity and so many heroic figures are taking it upon themselves to assist law enforcement.
Lewis said he knows the area well and has largely been able to navigate well, even though it’s impossible to see where one is driving. There are obstacles that would be visible under normal conditions, which are now under water.
He said he hit a few things while out working and “kind of tore up my truck a little bit, but it ain’t that big a deal. There are a lot of people looking for help, particularly women and kids, and so you just do what you can for them.”
• Donate to the American Red Cross or text 90999 to donate $10.
• NFL superstar J.J. Watt has created a Houston Floor Relief fund, which has already raised nearly $5 million.
• The Salvation Army in Houston has set up a disaster relief microsite. To donate, call 1-800-725-2769 or text STORM to 51555.