Houston Rockets center Clint Capela had been inactive on Twitter for 10 days. But as the wind and rains brought on by Hurricane Harvey pulverized his city, Capela put his fingers to work, pelting his more than 27,000 followers with messages on August 27.
“First off, I was just trying to help the people,” Capela told ESPN.com.
Capela, a native of Geneva, Switzerland, is still somewhat new to the city as he heads into his fourth season with the Rockets. However, despite being semi-stranded in a downtown building in Houston, he’s spending most of his time in that area while utilizing social media to spread the word to help out trapped citizens and even abandoned pets in need of rescue.
Tweet me and I’ll share as many emergency situations as I can. Stay safe Houston.
— Clint Capela (@CapelaClint) August 27, 2017
When followers on Twitter requested that Capela tweet out the addresses of friends and family members unable to be reached or in need of boat rescues, the center obliged. Capela also tweeted out the contact information of local shelters, the Coast Guard, and charitable organizations for citizens looking to donate for hurricane relief efforts, as well as instructions from the Harris County Sheriff’s department on how to make addresses more visible for emergency personnel prowling the streets looking to rescue trapped citizens.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Capela said. “I’m from Switzerland, and I’ve never seen this before. So I was just trying to help the people, and I saw that it was working pretty good; my help was really effective. So, this is why I started doing this. I’m just showing some love for the city by doing this, by trying to spread the word out, and doing whatever I can to help. Just by spreading the word by Twitter that people need to be rescued, that they’re trapped in their houses, stuff like that. A lot of people have been helped in the streets because of that. I just felt that I could have an impact there, and I was really happy to do that. I’m just happy to see how effective it is.
“Most of them were really happy about it. They were like, ‘Thank you so much. Blessings,’ stuff like that. I wasn’t trying to get something out of it. I just knew that because of my platform, I could have an impact to help these people that might not have the same platform. I’m just trying to help. I’m here in Houston. I’ve seen the storm. I’ve been through the storm. It was just horrible. The rain was just, wow. It was that kind of rain that I’ve never seen.”
So far, Capela’s efforts have yielded rewards for a 6-10 giant frustrated he can’t render aid physically. Capela has sent out the contact information for a network of more than 30 boats spread out all over Houston searching for citizens to rescue. After Capela retweeted the plight of four trapped dogs at Paw Envy Pet Care in Sugarland, Texas, as well as a pet sitter on Brays Bayou stranded with four dogs and two cats, the animals were eventually rescued.
He’s also helped some Houston citizens find rescues.
“It’s not just the money,” said Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who through a $100,000 contribution and a YouCaring account, has raised more than $4 million for relief efforts. “It’s the retweeting, it’s the reposting. It’s people talking about it. It’s so special to see, and I can’t thank everybody enough. All I can say on behalf of the city of Houston is thank you.”
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) August 30, 2017
Close to 30 percent of Harris County sat under water as of Tuesday afternoon, according to reports, and the National Weather Service estimates more than 6 million Texans have been impacted as the storm has broken the all-time contiguous U.S. rainfall record from a tropical storm or hurricane.
As the catastrophe has unfolded, Capela said he ventures out every day “to see how much better it gets,” but can’t walk too far because “it’s still flooded.” Near Capela’s building downtown, the water has receded somewhat. But just a couple of blocks away, “it’s still pretty bad.”
So Capela waits, walks the streets some, then takes part in “a little workout in my building, and then I just stay home.” A sense of frustration comes over Capela’s voice about the fact he can’t physically take part in rescue efforts due to his limited range brought on by the flooding.
“I was definitely not prepared for this. I’ve never seen this before,” Capela said. “I didn’t know that it would be this bad. I was just not prepared for it. I don’t have the ideal tools to go help these people that far [away]. I wish I did. But I did as much as I could do, and I’ll keep doing it. As long as I can do something for this city, and help a couple people out, I’ll do it.”
Capela said he’s spoken to teammates about relief efforts, and he’s currently in preliminary talks to partner with an organization in the coming days to help the citizens of Houston. New Rockets point guard Chris Paul donated $75,000 to help with Harvey efforts, while team owner Leslie Alexander, according to reports, increased his initial donation of $4 million to $10 million. Capela said Rockets teammate Nene has also donated for Harvey relief, and Luc Mbah a Moute, who signed with Houston this summer, is looking to join the efforts as well.
“I can’t wait to get to Houston and assist the relief efforts for the people impacted by the storm,” Mbah a Moute said. “It is inspiring to see the character of those in Houston and the surrounding areas coming together in this time of need.”
Capela knows the recovery process will be a full team effort, and he’s looking to give back to the city that took him in when he came over from Switzerland three years ago.
“We’ve had some little talks; get some clothes out, stuff like that that we have,” Capela said. “Houston is not my home, but this is the first city and state I’ve been living in [since coming into the NBA in 2014]. So of course, it’s not my home. But I really have love for this city. This city has helped me a lot, and everybody has been really good to me. I feel comfortable here, and want to help out as much as I can.”