ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, July 23, 2008) - At least 600 Texas National Guard members prepared for storm duty Tuesday, as Tropical Storm Dolly beat a northwestward path over the Gulf of Mexico toward southern Texas.

Dolly was predicted to reach hurricane strength Wednesday with damaging winds, heavy rains and coastal flooding.

Gov. Rick Perry authorized the call for up to 1,200 Texas military personnel, including the Army and Air National Guard and State Guard, officials said. A contingency of State Guard volunteers based out of Weslaco in the Rio Grande Valley was available for duty. The troops were to assist civilian emergency responders preparing for the first storm to threaten the U.S. this hurricane season.

Guardmembers prepared equipment Tuesday as the storm approached. Units staged equipment in Austin, Houston and San Antonio with orders to be fully mission-capable by noon Wednesday, said Col. Bill Meehan, Texas National Guard spokesman.

The National Weather Service reported that Dolly was expected to become a hurricane, with sustained winds of at lease 74 mph before making landfall Wednesday. Storm watches were in effect Tuesday morning from Brownsville in southern Texas up the Gulf Coast to Port O'Conner.

Officials also predicted rain accumulations of 4 to 8 inches, with isolated deluges of 15 inches, over much of southern Texas during the next few days. Coastal flooding of 4 to 6 feet above normal tide levels, with dangerous battering waves, was predicted north of the storm's landfall.
The Texas National Guard's Joint Operations Center is maintaining contact with the State Operations Center as both monitor the storm.

Texas Guard officials said they are deploying their state's Soldiers and Airmen from outside the predicted impact zone to allow affected Guard members to prepare and protect their own families and businesses.

The Guard is preparing to conduct search and rescue operations, provide transportation, and deploy medical teams to support the state's first responders, Meehan said. Guard members will also provide communications, engineering and security support if needed, he added.

Meehan said the state is also deploying more than 3,000 Soldiers from the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team this weekend for Operation Iraqi Freedom. And Guard members are still planning to conduct Operation Lone Star, a medical and humanitarian support operation along the Mexican border. They expect to treat nearly 15,000 Mexican residents.

The National Guard continually trains, coordinates and exercises with local and state emergency responders nationwide. More than 400,000 Guard Soldiers and Airmen are available nationwide, because of Emergency Management Assistance Compacts, should any governor ask for their support.

Last September, 250 Texas Guardmembers mobilized for Hurricane Humberto. It made landfall just east of the Louisiana border as a tropical storm, killing one and causing an estimated $50 million in damages.

Texas Guard members were also mobilized last summer for Tropical Storm Erin, which was downgraded to a tropical depression, and nearly 4,700 Guard members mobilized last August for Hurricane Dean, a deadly Category 5 hurricane, which missed the United States and blew into Mexico.

(Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith serves with the National Guard Bureau.)