COLLEGE STATION — Texas Task Force 1 will conclude nearly a month-long deployment in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on Tuesday as the elite search and rescue team returns to its headquarters at Easterwood Airport. The team is scheduled to arrive in shifts, with the first convoy arriving at approximately 10 a.m.
Texas Task Force 1 originally left College Station on Aug. 27 in advance of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall and ultimately assisted in 13,000 rescues in the downtown New Orleans area. The team returned to College Station from New Orleans on Sept. 20, only to be immediately activated again in preparation for Hurricane Rita.
The deployment of 150 members, two tractor-trailers and four box trucks of equipment, and an armada of rescue boats for Rita was the largest in Texas Task Force 1’s eight-year history. The team has responded to at least one major disaster each year since its inception: Del Rio floods (1998), Aggie Bonfire collapse (1999), Fort Worth tornadoes (2000), 9/11 World Trade Center attacks (2001), Winter Olympics preparations (2002), Shuttle Columbia disaster (2003) and Hurricane Ivan (2004).
This year Texas Task Force 1 has been deployed for four hurricanes — Dennis, Emily, Katrina and Rita — in one of the most active tropical seasons on record. Although the damage from Rita was less than expected, Texas Task Force 1 played a key role in the state’s response through the Governor’s Division of Emergency Management by conducting damage assessments and coordinating all search and rescue operations at the local, state and federal levels.
Texas Task Force 1 received numerous compliments from other national resources for the team’s planning, preparation and coordination of Rita’s search and rescue operations.
Approximately 200 Texas Task Force 1 members have participated in the Katrina and Rita operations. Additionally, the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), which serves as the team’s sponsoring agency, staffed a 24-hour operations center in College Station during each deployment and provided support personnel to the Texas State Operations Center in Austin.
Texas Task Force 1 assets deployed for Katrina and Rita include:
- 80-member urban search and rescue team (Katrina I)
- 35-member water strike team (Katrina I)
- 6-member helo rescue squad (Katrina I)
- 75-member urban search and rescue team (Katrina II)
- 75-member urban search and rescue team (Rita)
- 59-member hurricane rescue team (Rita)
- Various support personnel with FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security and the Texas State Operations Center.
Texas Task Force 1 is one of 28 national urban search and rescue teams under the direction of FEMA. The team is also Texas’ only statewide urban search and rescue team and coordinates the state’s water rescue operations under direction of the Governor’s Division of Emergency Management.