Meteorologist Jeff Lindner uses new fame to help families after Harvey

Harvey was historic, dumping up to 51 inches of rain in and around Harris County. Through it all, the Harris County Flood Control District's chief meteorologist was there.

HOUSTON - One of the enduring faces that emerged when Harvey ravaged the Houston area 10 weeks ago belongs to Harris County meteorologist Jeff Lindner. His steady, straightforward updates made him a national figure.

Harvey was historic, dumping up to 51 inches of rain in and around Harris County. Through it all, the Harris County Flood Control District's chief meteorologist was there.

Jeff Lindner's sleepless tour of duty meant he averaged one to two hours of sleep a day for the first five days. Viewers also recall his trademark blue shirt.

“I could be a spokesman for Joseph A. Bank. They don't wrinkle and you don't have to wash ‘em," says Linder.

All of that helped make him a household name. Lindner recently visited a neighborhood near the Addicks reservoir, knocking on a random door.

When it opened, he said “I’m Jeff.” The homeowner steps out and says immediately, “You are the best!”

Mel Haynie wasn't expecting Lindner or what happened next. They talked a bit, and Lindner learned she had no flood insurance. He pulled out a gift card and says, “Here is $500 to help with your recovery.”

Lindner's fans set up a GoFundMe account to send the tireless meteorologist on vacation.

“For a couple days I didn’t even pay attention to it,” says Lindner. But the account eventually topped $21,000.

County rules say he couldn't keep the money. But even before that, the Lindners had decided to donate the money.

Jeff and his wife, who also works for the Flood Control District, felt that keeping the money wouldn’t be right.

“People who were flooded need that money way more than I need a vacation," says Lindner. 

The Haynies, like much of the Houston area, relied on Jeff's no-nonsense and simple to understand updates.

Mel recalls, saying “Jeff's on! We immediately went to the television.” She tells Lindner, “It was by your recommendation that we got all of our things out of first floor up to second floor. We didn't lose anything in the house.”

Then there was Twitter. Lindner’s account and followers grew by legions.

“I had about 5,000 before Harvey and now I have about 19,000. But this was also the first big storm for twitter," says Lindner.

He sees Twitter as a "very effective" communication tool during disasters as long as people use it responsibly. Lindner manages his own account. His tweets are his. He often answers very specific questions that can’t be handled in a news conference.

His work earned him a spot in the Astros World Series parade and in the national limelight. The Wall Street Journal called him, “The unlikely hero of Harvey.”

“It’s still kind of overwhelming," says Lindner. He emphasizes that hundreds of government employees worked exhausting stretches during the storm.

“I always go back to this was my job to do. This is what I do. I had the information that people needed and wanted. It was my duty to pass the information to them so they could make the decisions they needed to make and it really boils down is the water rising or falling and how does it affect me?," says Lindner. 

What has struck him most in all this? How human nature responded to mother nature.

Armies of people turned up to help and some turned down his gift cards.

“I’ve had individuals that did not want to accept the money. They wanted me to give it to other people." says Lindner. 

He also says, “We don’t sit around and wait, a lot of times on help. We don’t have a lot of self-pity. We get out there and start working. We get it done. It's kinda of a Houston thing.”

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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