Private ambulances contracted to help evacuate them already were helping patients out of Houston, Galveston and Corpus Christi, leaving them overwhelmed when the storm aimed farther east, toward Beaumont and Port Arthur.
As city and county officials used school buses to take patients from hospitals and nursing homes to a nearby airport,
Late Thursday, military helicopters arrived and helped take as many as 10,000 people to safety at other hospitals across the state and region.
Commercial airliners, including those from Southwest, United and Delta, helped with the effort. The last group of evacuees left at 1 p.m. Friday. "Without them, people could have died,"