Champaign man learned extent of Texas relatives' plight from CNN

Champaign man learned extent of Texas relatives' plight from CNN

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Having spent last weekend in Las Vegas for the Mayweather-McGregor fight, Champaign's Thomas Holmes wasn't fully aware of just how much devastation Hurricane Harvey left behind on its way through Houston.

And then, as he was settling back in at home this week, he caught a clip of a survivor being interviewed earlier by CNN.

It was Lamart Clay, husband of Holmes' sister, Latrice, describing on national television the 12 hours over the weekend they spent trapped inside their Katy, Texas, home with eight of their children and grandchildren, ranging in age from 7 months to 25 years old.

"My sister had been posting pictures (on Facebook over the weekend) but I thought it was water in their basement," Holmes said. "She said that water was in their living room and I couldn't believe it. I just started asking them what I could do."

His brother-in-law gave him the number for the Red Cross, which Holmes posted to Facebook on Monday. Eventually, Holmes said, he got in touch with the Coast Guard and his 10 family members trapped in Katy were rescued, spending a night in a hotel away from the flooding.

On Tuesday morning, CNN came calling for a phone interview, asking Lamart Clay about the situation his family faced. It rained so much so quickly that a foot of water had entered their home within an hour. He had contacted the emergency dispatch number, but other homes were being prioritized at the time.

"It was pretty scary," he told CNN.

Clay said he remained calm outwardly so as not to frighten his family any further, but admitted to being scared himself. After they all began praying, the water in the house began to subside and they were eventually led to safety.

Holmes was sent a clip of Clay's appearance on CNN and shared the video with his co-workers at the Hilton Garden Inn, where he does maintenance.

"It was pretty cool for everyone to see my family being on CNN, but more than anything we were all just happy that they're safe and everybody is OK," Holmes said.

The Clays will be able to get back to their house soon, but the extent of the damage is still to be determined.

"They don't know what's next, if they're moving or what," Holmes said. "It's a big adjustment but there are still more people down there who need to be rescued."

Contributions: Far and wide

As proud ex-Texans Lovie Smith and Brad Underwood were making their video plea for Illini fans to join the hurricane relief effort (text "HARVEY" to 90999 to give $10 to the Red Cross), help was already on the way to Houston.

Here's just a sampling of the area's generosity.

— Due to arrive in Texas late Thursday night: a trailer full of food and supplies from the kind folks of Piatt County. Sheriff Dave Hunt and Deputy Tom Apperson delivered the load in person, leaving at 6 a.m. Thursday for the two-day roundtrip. They had a special escort for the 960-mile journey there — courtesy Houston Police Officer Jacob Ramos, who just so happened to be visiting his wife's hometown of Monticello when Harvey hit.

— Coming from St. Joseph: 50 Spartan basketball T-shirts and a couple pairs of shoes, answering a social-media call from the University of Houston coach — former Indiana Hoosiers head man Kelvin Sampson.

— By now, 6,000 granola bars (c/o PepsiCo Quaker), a van full of supplies (c/o Flex-N-Gate owner Shahid Khan), 100-plus cases of water and assorted other items should be in Texas. The haul was taken down by two Danville police officers (Joshua Edington, Mike Stephens) and four Bismarck residents (Joe and Ethan Allsopp, Bill and Teresa Makemson).

— On Monday, the kids at Salt Fork High will begin collecting donations for the Houston Food Bank. Science teacher Brian Russell said the school is turning the two-week drive into a class cup competition, similar to what Urbana High's Interact Club is doing with its "Make Change for Texas" fundraiser, which kicks off Tuesday.

— Among the fleet of vessels rescuing residents and ferrying supplies: the Clinton Lake Sailing Association's jon boat, transported to Texas by club member Eric Bussell of Philo.

— The kindergartners and first-graders at Champaign's Countryside School have joined the "Undies for Everyone" cause.

— That's also on the to-collect list for students and staff at Robeson Elementary, one of six Unit 4 schools with projects in the works. They'll send to Texas however many diapers, undies, socks and cleaning supplies they can collect between now and Wednesday.

Danville High's National Honor Society is collecting donations for a Texas school during all four lunch periods today through Sept. 8 and at tonight's football game. They're also collecting new and gently-used T-shirts of all sizes at the game.

JEFF D'ALESSIO and NOELLE McGEE

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