National Guard airdrops hay to feed cattle stranded by Harvey

BEAUMONT, TEXAS - The Texas Army National Guard has been working around the clock to assist southeast Texas since Hurricane Harvey hit the area. On Tuesday, their attention turned to stranded cattle.

KHOU 11 cameras were allowed on board a Chinook helicopter on a unique mission. Pilot Randolph Robinson was in command.

"Today's mission was feeding cows," said Robinson.

It's not as easy as it sounds. A 40-minute ride from Brookshire to Beaumont is only the beginning

"Roads are still underwater, areas where folks' homes are, are still underwater," said Robinson.

Robinson has seen it all from the cockpit. The devastation is real, but their focus now is on keeping animals alive.

"The request came down from ranchers that cows had been underwater for several weeks and they had nothing to eat," said Robinson.

The Chinook lands in a Beaumont High School parking lot where trailers and teams of ranchers, volunteers and guardsmen waste no time filling the Chinook with thousands of pounds of hay.

The helicopters don't even power down. There's no time. A few minutes later they're ready to lift off again to head right towards the distressed cattle.

"They are on these little islands completely surrounded by floodwaters," said Robinson.

Two Chinooks in formation hover above. That's when the real work begins.

"It's difficult, nothing makes cows scatter like a CH-47 overhead, but if we can get somewhere near our drop point, we'll just kick it out," said Robinson.

Bale after bale, each one weighing more than 40 pounds, is lifted and tossed out the back while Robinson keeps the Chinook level from just a few hundred feet off the ground.

It's a delicate aerial dance that in a matter of minutes allows a two man crew in the back of the chopper to drop more than 100 bales to the ground below.

"Once we're gone they come find the hay," said Robinson. "They're pretty hungry. So they're finding it."

"We're trying to keep them from succumbing to starvation right now," said Robinson.

This unique operation only started 24 hours ago, but since then the Texas Army National Guard has dropped more than 75,000 pounds of hay to struggling cattle. But for many cattle in southeast Texas, it's already too late.

"I know I've seen a few dead from the air myself," said Robinson. "We're just trying to keep that death toll down by delivering all this hay."

And the Teas Army National Guard isn't alone. Guardsmen from 11 other states are assisting. KHOU also learned the Singapore Air Force, who trains near Dallas, is flying supply missions across southeast Texas as well.

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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