Ex-Marine rescues victims in military vehicle

A retired Marine is using a military transport vehicle he bought at a government auction to help rescue New Bern, North Carolina, residents stranded by Tropical Storm Florence. CNN's Ed Lavandera reports.

Posted: Sep 16, 2018 1:22 PM
Updated: Sep 16, 2018 1:43 PM

The death and destruction wrought by Tropical Storm Florence has been punctuated with stories of bravery, generosity and resilience.

The massive storm's relentless rains continue to pound parts of the Carolinas, leaving at least five people dead, wiping out electricity to some 950,000 customers and trapping people in flooded homes.

But the wrath of the storm that crashed ashore Friday in North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane has been met with equally powerful acts of kindness, mercy and hope.

There have been harrowing rescues, neighbors coming to the aid of neighbors, strangers donating money and opening their homes, and other numerous other acts of selflessness in the darkest moment.

Here are some of those stories:

'It takes a special person'

Annazette Riley-Cromartie her husband, three children and dog sought shelter from the storm in the attic of their home in eastern North Carolina.

Then around midnight Thursday, water started pouring into the brick home.

With the water rising steadily, she said they took the children to a room and put them on the top bunk of a bed.

Her husband heard cries for help outside the house. When he went to help, the floodwaters were above his chest.

Riley-Cromartie dialed 911. No one came.

Fortunately, the volunteer Civilian Crisis Response Team from Indiana had arrived in North Carolina to help.

Amber Hersel and other team members received a call around 4 a.m. Friday from the local fire department. Families were trapped in James City, about 100 miles northeast of Wilmington and just south of New Bern.

A picture of Hersel carrying Riley-Cromartie's daughter went viral after the rescue mission.

It was Hersel's first hurricane.

"As you see the families that you're helping, you know it's all worth it," said.

Said Riley-Cromartie, "It takes a special person to leave their own home and their own family to come all this way to help us."

'That's why I got this thing'

The hulking military transport vehicle was scooped up at a government auction a decade ago.

On Friday, a 47-year-old retired Marine named Jason Weinmann put it to good use in New Bern, North Carolina.

He pulled 10 people out of flooded neighborhoods and delivered them to a shelter.

"That's why I got this thing," he said. "To use in times like this."

Jennifer Morales, 20, was one of those evacuated, along with her husband and a son who turns 2 next month.

The Morales family had three feet of water in their home. They called for help. It arrived 12 hours later.

"We didn't know where to go," Morales said.

'I can't abandon them'

Christine Meinhold was staying put with her seven rescue dogs.

With then-Hurricane Florence approaching, Meinhold decided to ride out the storm at home just outside Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

"I really don't have the resources to evacuate with seven dogs," she told CNN on Wednesday.

The seven dogs were rescues, she said. She felt a responsibility to care for them.

"I can't abandon them," she said. "My car has over 205,000 miles on it and won't make it far. I can't imagine breaking down somewhere and putting them in danger."

During Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Meinhold helped rescue animals from the floodwaters.

After CNN told her story, strangers reached out on Facebook. A crowdfunding campaign was started and they rented her a truck so she could reach her family in Tennessee.

The organizer of the campaign, Palms Springs-based radio host Kate Zenna, said she wouldn't let the dogs perish.

"I went to rescue dogs alone after Katrina and what I saw will never be forgotten," she said. "And now I am living with a lot of dogs and always have a plan."

Zenna said about 16 people across the US donated to help Meinhold evacuate with her dogs. Initially, the group planned to purchase a 2009 Dodge Journey with the help of a generous single $5,200 donation, Zenna said.

When that plan fell through, a donor suggested to rent a U-Haul van.

Pictures shared on Facebook show Meinhold and her dogs on their journey away from Florence's path.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

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