Texas Governor Deploys National Guard To Help In Harvey Relief Efforts
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott has deployed the entire Texas National Guard to help with rescue and relief efforts. That's some 12,000 soldiers. Colonel Steven Metze is public affairs officer for the Texas military department and joins us now from Austin. Thanks for coming on the show.
STEVEN METZE: Thank you for having me, Kelly.
MCEVERS: Has the entire Texas National Guard ever been deployed before?
METZE: That's a great question. To my knowledge, we have not put 12,000 people in a single mission before. But I'll have to check and verify that. But as far as I know, we - it's certainly not in recent history.
MCEVERS: Where are all those 12,000 people right now?
METZE: So we've got - 4,300 of them are forward in the affected area. The rest are on their way. And every day, we've got more manpower and more equipment moving toward the coast to assist those in effect - in the affected area and efforts across the state.
MCEVERS: So what are the big priorities, then, for those who are deployed? I mean where is the most need at this moment?
METZE: So we're focused right now - you know, the current conditions make it so that, you know - our No. 1 mission is focus on search and rescue. There are still people in imminent danger. As that starts to wane down, as we start to get fewer of those types of calls, then we're going to shift to, you know, critical life support missions.
So we'll set up what we call points of distribution where if other organizations, either local, state or federal, provide, you know, food, water or any other types of supplies, we'll set up distribution points to get those to the people who need them. But you know - and then, you know, there might be other contingency plans that we do after that as well.
We're in it for the long haul. We're looking at a lot of different contingencies. Search and rescue is still our No. 1 priority, followed up by critical life support. And then we may have, you know, more missions beyond that as this thing unfolds.
MCEVERS: How many people are still in imminent danger?
METZE: I don't have the numbers of how many are still in imminent danger. I can tell you that, you know, the calls have not slowed down on our end. You know, we're rescuing people around the clock, 24/7, day and night. There have been thousands of rescues by ground, hundreds more by air and, you know, doing other things that we're just calling evacuations and assistance incidents. So none of that has slowed down yet. And we're still getting calls across board to help.
MCEVERS: Describe some of those rescues - like, some that have happened today and in recent hours.
METZE: So, you know, calling down to some of the people, like, especially in the helicopter rescues, they're pulling people off rooftops. They're pulling people up who have broken legs. I talked to a guy who said they were pulling up someone who was diabetic and had run out of medicine. And they had - you know, they were unconscious. So we're definitely seeing, you know, situations where people are truly in dire need. And we're pulling them out of those situations as quickly as we can.
MCEVERS: And we're hearing that the rain is going to continue around Houston. How does that complicate things for your troops, especially aircraft?
METZE: Well, so it's actually the biggest - well, anytime there's anything, you know, in the air, that can affect air operations. But the biggest place we're seeing it right now - I was just talking to commander down in the streets today - is, they will go down a street, and literally an hour later, that street is filled with water. And they can't go back that same direction. So because the situation is so fluid, if you'll pardon the pun, and changing so much, it's literally hard for them to do, you know, to do planning and to coordinate effectively because the streets and the water situation keeps changing.
MCEVERS: Wow. So yeah, you can imagine wanting to go street-by-street and saying, this street's clear; this street's clear and knowing that that's finished. But it sounds like that's not the case at all. How do you deal with the logistics?
METZE: Yeah, you can literally turn around. Yeah, you can literally turn around, and the street you were just on is now 6 feet deep. So...
METZE: And that is a real challenge for the wheeled vehicles on the ground. I mean they're high-profile vehicles. They're tall trucks. But there's - you know, there's still a limit that - you know, of what they can go through safely.
MCEVERS: Have you ever seen anything like this?
METZE: You know, we've looked - you know, we've done a lot of floods over the years. We've done hurricanes. We're getting tropical storms. Obviously this is historic levels, though. We're - you know, we've trained for this sort of thing. We've prepared. But you know, something this big is still going to take an awful lot of work and adjustment for everybody's part.
MCEVERS: Are there any pictures that you just kind of can't get out of your head right now, things that you know you'll remember for a long time?
METZE: Yeah, yeah. They're definitely - I mean some of them good - I mean, you know, when you see the pictures of, you know, like, children being pulled out of the water and they're wrapped in, you know, a garbage bag to keep them dry but they're smiling because someone's pulling them out of water, you know, those are the kind of things that they will stick with you for a very long time.
MCEVERS: Colonel Steven Metze with the Texas National Guard, thanks a lot - appreciate it.
METZE: You bet.
(SOUNDBITE OF TAME IMPALA SONG, "NEW PERSON, SAME OLD MISTAKES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.