Guardsmen Help Victims as Floods Ravage Texas, Oklahoma
By Joelle Zarcone
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 28, 2007 National Guard troops and equipment in Texas and Oklahoma continued to help in flood-ravaged areas of those states today.
Recent torrential rain has swept through much of Texas, causing severe flooding over 650 miles from Brownsville to the Oklahoma border.
“We’re all praying it won’t be as bad (today). … We’re there now, and people need us,” said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Gonda Moncada, a spokeswoman for the Texas National Guard.
Heavy rain has fallen for the past two weeks, but the most extreme weather started two days ago, she said. Some areas of Texas have received as much as 19 inches of rain.
Gov. Rick Perry has activated 150 members of the Texas Army National Guard.
Ground transportation force packages consisting of about 30 soldiers, 10 high-profile 2.5- or 5-ton trucks along with various support vehicles, including Humvees, a fuel truck, a wreck truck, water buffalos and generators have gone from house to house to make sure residents inside were all right and assisted incident commanders with evacuations.
The high-profile vehicles are suited with tires large enough to push through the devastation, and the water buffalos are providing water where no clean resources are available.
The Texas National Guard is working jointly with the state police and fire chiefs in setting up vehicle barriers, preventing drivers from using flooded roads.
Last night, a Black Hawk helicopter was deployed to the town of Smithwick to rescue 14 civilians and several pets. They were airlifted to Marble Falls Middle School, which has been established as a shelter.
In Oklahoma, Col. Pat Scully, the state public affairs officer, said there has been minimal flooding in his state after “16 days straight of rain." No Oklahoma National Guard personnel have been activated, but a water buffalo was deployed to the town of Chickasha, about 40 miles south of Oklahoma City, because a water main was shut down for a day.
Meanwhile, Texas continues to battle Mother Nature.
“It’s hard work; it’s 24/7. But if you see the gratitude, it makes it all worth it,” Moncada said.
(Joelle Zarcone is assigned to Press Operations in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.)