Photos with pleas for help in finding the missing from Tropical Storm Harvey are being posted, cut and pasted, and retweeted by thousands of people as desperate family members seek loved ones who they fear might be dead but may only have a dead phone.
No official number of the unaccounted-for had been released Tuesday night amid the vast uncertainty of the storm’s fourth day, with authorities saying the 18 deaths confirmed so far could surge in the days to come.
Pictures and pleas for dozens of toddlers, brothers and grandfathers are circulating on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
The posts appeared to be getting results, though not always bringing good news.
“Pleaseeeee,” read the Instagram posting seeking 8-month-old Paige Booth, showing the baby sitting on a couch with a pacifier.
Her mother and grandmother were evacuating from their Houston home Monday and holding her above their heads as the water rose to their chests and a current pushed them along.
“It was raining bad, and the water was high,” the mother, Bajauh Henix, said.
They handed the baby off to a police officer on a personal watercraft, who took the infant to higher ground and handed her to a family in a black pick-up truck, said Kennesha Grand, the girl’s grandmother.
But when Grand and Henix reached the area where the child was supposed to be, no one there knew her whereabouts.
Once they reached a shelter, they posted photos of the baby on Instagram and elsewhere. “Everyone started posting, and it started spreading,” Grand said.
After nearly four hours, the mother got a phone call from a family. They had Paige, who was returned by a police officer, completely unfazed by the ordeal.
“She was sweet. She was dry. She was fed,” Grand said. “She didn’t miss us.”
Another search that took hold on social media lasted far longer, and it lacked the happy ending.
Ruben Jordan, 58, a former football and track coach from a Houston-area high school, had been sought since he disappeared on Saturday night.
“Please help,” the digital flier linked on Facebook and Twitter posts said. “His family is desperately awaiting any information. … He was helping rescue people from high water when last seen.”
People who spread the post praised the coach.
“Coach Jordan … had a tremendous positive impact on my twin sons,” Lee Jackson, an Austin writer, said when sharing the post, “he still keeps up with them. They love him.”
But after 48 hours of searching, his two adult children and the rest of his family learned from the Friendswood police department Monday that he had died, said Sandra Jordan Washington, his former wife.
Another missing man, 25-year-old Omar Rosales, worked part time at Wal-Mart and with his meager wages he decided to forgo a cellphone so he could pay for car insurance.
That made him unreachable for 17 hours after Harvey began, his mother, Lydia Rosales, said. His sister posted on Instagram on Sunday, hoping to find him.
Omar Rosales found that rising waters kept him from getting home when he got off work Saturday night. He finally parked in a lot, but rising waters forced him to drive further and at last his car stalled for good as he coasted into a gas station.
There, a man let him use his cellphone and he called his mother, who was just six blocks away at a friend’s house where she had taken shelter after leaving her own home.
“It’s just a miracle,” Rosales said Tuesday night, adding that she’d make sure her son had a phone from now on. “I think we both learned our lesson.”