In the midst of the pouring rain on Sunday, Aug. 27, a man in his truck flashed his high beams at Lane Toungate while he was driving down University Boulevard. Immediately, he knew something was wrong.
“I pulled over and he told me, ‘I have a friend [whose wife] is trapped in her single-story apartment that has four feet of water in it. She is pregnant and has her dog with her,’” Toungate said. “I sprung into action after that.”
Luckily, Toungate, a McMurtry College junior, had a kayak that he uses for duck hunting in the back of his truck. He was on his way to recreationally kayak the flooded waters of either the inner loop or West Lot.
Instead, he followed the man, Lubos Janoska, as they drove as close to the woman’s apartment as they could — the intersection of Kirby Drive and Holcombe Boulevard. Normally a five-minute drive, it took them about 15 minutes to get there.
“We’d drive down a road, then have to turn around and find a different route because of high water,” Toungate said.
Toungate put on neoprene waders— waterproof overalls — in preparation for the rescue.
“I didn’t want to get any of the nasty ass shit water on me,” he said.
Janoska followed behind Toungate while he scouted in the kayak for a safe path. He passed the joint Houston Fire Department, Houston Police Department and Harris County Sheriff rescue staging area and saw Coast Guard helicopter rescue operations less than a mile away from where he was.
When water was too high for his truck to drive through, Toungate paddled across a Randall’s parking lot and down an alley to reach her apartment.
Once there, he helped the woman into the single-seat kayak. She carried only her small dog and a bag of valuables in her lap.
“My boat is a 12.5-foot fishing kayak and is very stable, even when I shoot my 12-gauge shotgun out of it when I’m duck hunting,” Toungate said.
Drenched in sweat on the inside of his waders, Toungate pulled the kayak with the pregnant woman sitting on top until the woman could safely step off and wade through ankle-to-knee-deep water.
“I did have to be very careful where I stepped while I pulled her out, as the water was nearing the top of my waders, and it’s very easy to drown in sunk waders,” Toungate said.
Janoska said that he isn’t used to floods like the one he experienced during Harvey.
“Lane, on the other hand, behaved like a professional rescuer,” Janoska said. “Calm, cool and collected.”
“We parted ways with nothing more than a big thank you and the lasting impression of how [a] complete stranger can jump into action,” Janoska said. “Help a complete stranger with [the] expectation of nothing more than perhaps a sense of duty to a fellow man.”
When both Janoska and the woman made it to dry ground, they said their goodbyes.
“[Janoska] shot me a text later that night thanking me and asking me if I wanted to go out for a beer sometime,” Toungate said. “I said, ‘Absolutely.’”