Members of Texas Task Force 1’s elite search and rescue and water strike teams returned from Louisiana to their headquarters at the Texas Engineering Extension Service in College Station on Sept. 7.
The teams were demobilized following a 10-day search and rescue operation in which they were involved in approximately 13,000 rescues and evacuations from downtown New Orleans floodwaters, including hospital and nursing home patients.
“Each day was a challenge,” said Jim Yeager, assistant task force leader for the water strike team. “For the most part they were very, very happy to get out of the area, to get out of the water. It was just a good feeling helping those people.”
Task Force members involved in the response to Hurricane Katrina included 80 with the urban search and rescue team, 41 with the water strike team and eight additional personnel serving in various capacities with FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security and the Texas State Operations Center.
“I have been to a lot of disasters in my career, but this tops them all,” said Billy Parker, leader of the group’s water strike team and veteran of the Texas Task Force 1 deployment to the World Trade Center in 2001. “It’s good to be home.”
Texas Task Force 1’s urban search and rescue team was initially deployed on Aug. 27 in advance of Katrina’s landfall two days later. The Task Force is one of 28 national urban search and rescue teams under FEMA. Texas Task Force 1’s water strike team was deployed Aug. 29 by the Governor’s Division of Emergency Management as a mutual aid agreement with Louisiana.