Texas National Guard Ready for Hurricane Dean
August 20, 2007
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, Aug. 21, 2007) - About 4,700 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, most of them from Texas, are making final preparations for a rapid response should Hurricane Dean strike the Texas coast later this week.
Another 5,000 Texas Soldiers and Airmen are poised for activation should Texas Gov. Rick Perry deem it necessary.
As of 8 a.m. (EDT) today according to the National Weather Service, Hurricane Dean was moving over the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and heading northwest at about 20 mph with maximum sustained winds of about 125 mph.
Dean is expected to drop 5 to 20 inches of rainfall in southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and northern Honduras, with "life-threatening flash floods and mudslides," according to the National Weather Service.
After Dean crosses the Yucatan Peninsula and the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, it is expected to make its final landfall somewhere along the mainland Mexican coast tomorrow.
Even if Dean stays south of the border, Texas National Guard officials remain wary about the possibility of flooding in the region. Hurricane Erin swept across Texas on Aug. 16.
"We are still very concerned, even if the hurricane doesn't wobble north into Texas," said Chief Master Sgt. Gonda Moncada, a Texas National Guard spokesperson. "We are pressing on with our preparations and are still expecting the hurricane to have a major impact on Texas with flooding, especially in the Brownsville area, which is right on the border."
Chief Master Sgt. Moncada said no locations in Texas have mandatory evacuation orders, but that voluntary evacuations in Brownsville and Galveston have begun. More than 300 Texas Guard members went through bus-driver training over the weekend. Some 1,100 buses are available statewide to assist with transportation and evacuation.
Many of the cities that are likely to be affected by Hurricane Dean, including Brownsville, Weslaco and Alice, have received hurricane response ground force packages from the National Guard.
Each ground force package is a platoon-size element complete with 10 trucks including a 2.5-ton, a 5-ton, a fuel truck and a wrecker, said Texas Army Guard Officer Candidate Adam Musil.
Chief Master Sgt. Moncada said aircraft from 17 different states are already on the ground. More than 10 personnel are assigned to each aircraft. Officer Candidate Musil said 47 helicopters, including CH-47 Chinooks, UH-60 Black Hawks and OH-58 Kiowa observation helicopters, will be available today in Austin, San Antonio and Dallas if aviation assets are required.
C-130 transports from the Texas Air National Guard and other states are on-call to perform air evacuations.
Gov. Perry issued a disaster proclamation Aug. 17 and, at his request, President Bush issued a federal disaster declaration for Texas that allows supplemental federal emergency assistance to support staging resources and personnel necessary to protect lives, property, public health and safety in anticipation of the hurricane.
One example of federal assistance that has already been provided is the U.S. Air Force evacuation aircraft and health professionals augmenting the resources already positioned in Texas.
Also, specialized emergency medical personnel are in the final phases of preparation to receive special-need and non-ambulatory patients and transport them to hospitals outside the storm's potential impact area
Five satellite communications teams are in place and 15 are inbound to re-establish communications if needed. These teams would provide full spectrum communications capabilities among all emergency responders.
"If Texas is spared by the hurricane, then we will be very thankful," Chief Master Sgt. Moncada said. "If not, then we are ready to respond."
(Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka writes for the National Guard Bureau.)