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Canadian Calum Neff leads rescue efforts in wake of Hurricane Harvey

The Katy, Texas distance runner has been rescuing locals from their homes and coordinating efforts after Hurricane Harvey's intense rainfall

Hurricane Harvey

Just west of Houston, Texas is the community of Katy, where Canadian Calum Neff and his family reside.

Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast in late August resulting in torrential rain and extensive flooding in the Houston area and its surrounding communities. At the centre of the local rescue efforts has been the Canadian, who started off leading a group of volunteers. As rescue efforts expanded, Neff says he found himself leading the Army, police, fire, border control and other agencies.

Neff, who some in the running community may know as the Guinness World Record holder for the half-marathon and marathon with a stroller, says the his role in the rescue efforts started because he owns a truck and a raft. He helped out the owner of Trail Racing Over Texas, which puts on races across Texas, by rescuing a friend in the running community, who has a broken leg, and her children from rising waters in their home.

“We realized we were the only ones to help,” he says. “It escalated from a dozen people on a raft through the night in non-stop rain, then to boats the next day, and eventually incident commander of my own post where we’ve been running various operations all week just a half-mile from my house which is still dry.”

Neff, 33, who represented Canada at the 2017 Trail World Championships, says he and his family, including wife and three children, are safe.

“We’ve evacuated close to 600 [people] and assisted nearly 200 [people] with retrieving critical items, medication, and pets today (Friday),” he says. As of Friday evening, Neff posted on Facebook that “efforts have moved from getting people out, to getting people back in” as water levels recede.

According to the New York Times, there have been 47 confirmed deaths in Texas related or suspected to be related to the storm. The NYT adds that “what set Harvey apart was its rain” adding that “the storm essentially stalled, turning roads into rivers.”

In an interview with CTV News, Neff says that he helped out with the rescue efforts during past natural disasters including the Calgary floods in 2013 as well as being in the United States during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.