Sahuarita Sun
Aug 29, 2017
Dan Shearer

As the nation's fourth-largest city is inundated with water, a Sahuarita company is there to lend a hand.

Hydronalix, which has spent the better part of the past decade developing its signature EMILY water rescue robot for swift-water rescue, has sent personnel and technology to help Houston in the wake of heavy rainfall and flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas on Friday evening.

The hurricane, now a tropical storm, has already dumped more 40 inches of rain across the greater-Houston area. One National Weather Service gauge in Cedar Bayou, Texas, recorded 51.88 inches from Harvey as of Tuesday afternoon, the highest recorded rainfall from a hurricane or tropical storm in the continental United States. Another 6 to 12 inches is expected along the upper Texas coast through Friday.

Flooding across the Houston area has been widespread, with reports of more than 1,000 swift-water rescues over the weekend.

Bob Lautrup, executive vice president of Sahuarita-based Hydronalix and co-creator of EMILY – Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard – said Tuesday that the company sent two of its staff to Houston last week, before the storm hit. They are with Rural/Metro Fire Capt. John Sims, a swift-water rescue specialist with experience using EMILY.

Hydronalix sent two specialized EMILY units to Texas. The first is designed for whitewater rescue, including a more powerful motor than a typical EMILY, which are capable of speeds up to 20 mph and supporting five people. This version also carries a life vest and helmet for those being rescued and a radio to communicate.

The second unit is sonar-equipped, and is surveying what's happening under the floodwaters for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Hydronalix team was hosted by Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue, a part of the Texas A&M University Engineering Experiment Station, which is coordinating a number of drones and other technologies to help responders in Fort Bend County, east of Houston.

This is not the first time Hydronalix has responded to a high-profile crisis. In 2016, the company sent several EMILY units and personnel to the coast of Greece several times to rescue refugees coming across the Mediterranean Sea in rickety boats.

Lautrup said sending the aid to Texas as the company did to Greece is all part of what EMILY was built for.

“This is the business we are in, saving people's lives,” he said.