More than 100 Nebraskans are now in the Houston, Texas, area helping with search and rescue operations following Hurricane Harvey.
Nebraska Task Force 1 arrived over the weekend and went to work Sunday.
Lincoln Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Brad Thavenet, the group’s lead officer, said rising water made them change staging areas multiple times.
Their first task Monday was to evacuate residents of a nursing home in Katy, a Houston suburb.
“Probably fair to say this will be a marathon, more than a sprint,” Thavenet said in a conference call with Nebraska reporters. “Overnight (Sunday), in the city of Houston, we took about ten more inches of water, rain water, with anticipate 15 to 20 to come.”
He said the 80 members of the task force are in a good mental state. They come from Lincoln, Omaha, and Papillion area fire departments.
“Every morning in the operational action plan that comes out, is stressed heavily, work-rest cycles,” he said. “They’re constantly running medical checks on our folks on a daily basis before they can go.”
The 80-member task force includes firefighters from the Lincoln, Omaha, and Papillion areas. It also has doctors, structural engineers, and heavy-rigging specialists.
They are now joined by 23 Nebraska National Guard soldiers and four helicopters from units based in Lincoln and Grand Island. Medical evacuation and hoist rescue missions will be their focus.
Thavenet calls this a huge event.
“The movement of water is so dynamic and moving at such a quick pace, as is the torrential down flow, that the area under water is growing exponentially, almost by every quarter hour. There’s the threat this tropical storm now will make landfall three times,” he said. “The amount of rain and getting around because everything is so flooded on a massive scale is unbelievable to say the least.”
FEMA is covering the cost of calling up personnel from the states, as well as paying for the workers needed to cover the first responders back home.