High school coaches brave hurricane to evacuate their town

They got a text at 9:43 p.m. on Sunday: Bay City needed bus drivers to help evacuate the Texas town. They jumped in their cars and answered the call.

Nestled along the Colorado River, Bay City officials expected the river to swell so much it would flood the entire city. Bay City High School athletic secretary Linda Leissner rode out the hurricane in the emergency operations center, assisting in the call center.

She texted five members of the high school athletic department at 9:43 p.m.

“We need bus drivers … I said that I knew I could count on coaches … Yes it is scary.”

“It’s a natural instinct to say yes,” coach Nathan Janak said. “I drive a bus. I have a CDL. Tell me when and where.”

At 10:17 p.m., the Bay City mayor posted on his Facebook page the emergency message: Get out now. The Colorado River was expected to flood the city with as much as 10 feet of water.

Athletic director Guadalupe Florez and football coaches Janak, Jerrod McCollister, James Werner, Andrew McFaddin and Brent Bennett got in their vehicles and made their way to their homes.

Janak returned that night; he had evacuated to his sister’s place in San Antonio.

“When I got back on the road, I said a little prayer to myself,” Janak said to CNN by phone.

Harvey still roared as he drove back that night. Dodging flooding, debris and road closures, Janak pulled back into Bay City around 3 a.m.

He slept for about 30 minutes, meeting his other colleagues at the transportation depot.

They pulled up to the town’s civic center, slowly loading up their school buses with their fellow neighbors, even some of their players.

The deadline to evacuate passed, and the buses pulled out toward Terry High School in Rosenberg.

Janak says it was scary and that everyone could, “feel the fear.” The evacuees didn’t know exactly where they were going and were unsure of what they would return to.

Once in Rosenberg, they unloaded their passengers.

“I had a chance to catch my breath,” Janak says. He also snapped a selfie and wrote a Facebook post that has since gone viral.

“Not one time did people let the circumstances get to them,” he wrote. “One lady told me, ‘Coach, we are in this together!’ She couldn’t have been more right.”

When they group returned their now empty buses Bay City, the town was pin-drop silent. The streets were slowly filling with water. After dropping off the buses they, themselves, made their own escape.

Thankfully, Bay City did not receive the catastrophic flooding originally forecast and the mandatory evacuation was lifted on Tuesday.