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COLLEGE STATION — Texas Task Force 1 conducted search operations Friday at a multistory condominium complex in Orange Beach, Ala., that had collapsed from Hurricane Ivan’s fierce winds and storm surge.

The 31-member elite search and rescue team found the five-story building, which had suffered from a pancake collapse, to be unoccupied as of 4 p.m. CT, as Texas Task Force 1’s operations continued in the resort town east of Mobile. The team will remain overnight on the Alabama Gulf Coast before resuming search and rescue operations Saturday morning.

The 31-member team used global positioning satellite (GPS) equipment on Thursday to remap the area’s roads and streets for emergency response personnel. Ivan’s winds tore down most of the signage in the area, and many of the major roadways have suffered damage or are littered with massive amounts of debris.

Texas Task Force 1’s arrival on the Alabama coast took longer than expected due to the heavy traffic from evacuees returning to their homes after the hurricane’s landfall and the widespread damage caused by Ivan. The team will continue its mission along the Alabama and Florida coasts until released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but will remain on heightened alert with Hurricanes Jeanne and Karl threatening the southeastern United States.

Texas Task Force 1 is one of 28 teams in the national urban search and rescue system under FEMA. Texas’ Type III team in Alabama is equipped to respond to light structural collapses and conduct general rescue operations.

The Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), a member of The Texas A&M University System, serves as the sponsoring agency for Texas Task Force 1.

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