Texas National Guard Deployed In Rescue Efforts
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The rain is letting up in southeastern Texas, but floodwaters from over 50 inches of rain continue to strain reservoirs, with water beginning to spill over the two main dams in the Houston area. Meanwhile, Governor Greg Abbott called up all 12,000 members of the Texas National Guard for search and rescue operations along the Texas coast. Joining us now on Skype is Lieutenant Colonel Travis Walters. He's a spokesman for the Texas National Guard.
Lieutenant Colonel, thank you so much for being with us.
TRAVIS WALTERS: Good morning, Rachel.
MARTIN: What are you hearing on the ground this morning about operations?
WALTERS: Well, I'll tell you this. I am proud to be a Texan this morning. And what I'm hearing are - really, for three reasons that I'm proud. First, is it - our guardsmen, we've mobilized almost 5,000 of them - going up much higher than that as we continue to bring people on right now. And they are literally motivated and inspired by the work that they are doing, which is giving them a tireless energy to rescue people, save lives and help their fellow Texans.
Second, I'm proud to be a Texan this morning because of our first responders, who are literally doing tremendous work on the ground. Keep in mind that all responses are local - one person in one neighborhood over thousands and thousands - and of times across the affected area. And so the responders are literally extremely focused on the task at hand because in this situation, there's no room for anything else than maximum cooperation.
And finally, I'm very proud to be a Texan today because the citizens of Texas - people that we are rescuing that have been through so much - are patient, are grateful and are helping us out. And it's heartbreaking to see their tragedy but heartwarming to see their enduring spirit.
MARTIN: How difficult is it to be carrying out these search and rescue operations in these conditions, which seem to be changing constantly?
WALTERS: Oh, well, you're absolutely correct. I just spoke with one of our ground commanders in south Houston, and he was explaining to me that in the high-water vehicle rescues that they're doing, the conditions continue to change very quickly. Fortunately, it looks like we're going to get a break in the rain today. But rivers are cresting, so areas that were passable as we drive in all of a sudden become very quickly impassable, and we have to maneuver around to adapt to continue doing the job.
MARTIN: So just because there may be a break in the rain, a little sunshine, that doesn't mean that the tough stuff is over.
WALTERS: That is absolutely correct. And it - this is far from over. And we're still at a very heightened level of caution in making sure we respect the flooding that is on the ground as we work hard to do what we need to do.
MARTIN: There are two dams, I mentioned, situated on the west side of Houston - at one point, rated among the most unsafe in the country. Water is now coursing over a spillway. Is the Guard prepared to respond should one of those structures collapse?
WALTERS: Well, we, of course, would focus on what our local responders have us to do. We are ready to jump in anytime the local officials decide that they need our help with our brigade engineers or whatever resources that they may need - continually pouring in more resources into the area.
MARTIN: OK, Lieutenant Colonel Travis Walters - he's a spokesman for the Texas National Guard. Lieutenant Colonel, thanks for all of your work. Best of luck to you as you continue to do it.
WALTERS: Thank you so much.
(SOUNDBITE OF TRIOSENCE'S "RIVER SONG") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.