As Hurricane Harvey closes in on Texas, where some portions of the state are predicted to receive as much as 35 inches of rain, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has called on the Texas Army National Guard, Air National Guard, Texas State Guard, and Texas Military Department to activate and proposition assets and personnel around the state to be prepared to take action once the hurricane makes landfall.
A total of 700 members of these organizations and agencies have already been activated, with more standing by should the situation require more personnel within impacted communities to supplement law enforcement and emergency first responder efforts. In Austin and San Antonio, Texas, UH-60 Black Hawk and UH-72 Lakota air crews are already standing by to assist in emergency search and rescue, swift water rescues, and emergency evacuations as necessary. Many of the portions of Texas expected to be hit most severely have already levied mandatory evacuations, many other regions have been strongly advised to evacuate as well.
“We could mandate it but people have to make a decision on their own,” Joe McComb, mayor of the coastal city of Corpus Christi, said. He went on to recommend the people of his city evacuate in the “strongest possible terms.”
All non-essential personnel and their families have, however, been ordered to evacuate from the Naval Air Stations in Corpus Christi and Kingsville, Texas. Both bases are in the process of moving their aircraft to safety, either to other bases, or inside hangers the Navy hopes will be able to sustain the high winds and rising water levels the hurricane promises to deliver.
Three U.S. Air Force C-5 transport planes have already been moved from Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio to Biggs Army Airfield in Fort Bliss, with plans to move four more before the storm hits landfall. The Coast Guard has also upgraded the alert status of the ports in the area to “Yankee,” which means all inbound ships must seek alternate ports. They have also barred most vessels from departing the port after 10:00AM local time on Friday.
“This is what we train for,” said Army Brig. Gen. Patrick M. Hamilton, commander of the Domestic Operations Task Force. “And we’re proud to stand beside our civilian partners, first responders and volunteers to serve the citizens of Texas.”
Although the storm is currently listed as a category 2, National Weather Service director Louis Uccellini told The Associated Press on Thursday that he anticipates that the storm may likely reach category 3 level strength before making landfall, meaning wind speeds of 111 miles per hour or more. Despite the damaging power of such high winds, however, most in Texas are primarily concerned with flooding, as the storm is expected to cause storm surges and flooding in many portions of the state.
“This is Texans helping Texans – neighbors helping neighbors,” Hamilton said. “While we don’t want to have to put our training to the test during a tragedy, our citizen-guardsmen remain prepared to help save lives and property, when called.”
Image courtesy of the New York State National Guard