The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
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Texas Task Force 1 activates in response to state-wide heavy rains

Photo by Provided

Task Force 1 has been deployed to assist flood victims for the past three weeks.

Due to historic flooding in Texas that started the week of Oct. 7, Texas Task Force 1 was deployed to stand guard and protect those affected by the weather.
Texas Task Force 1 was founded in 1997 by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service with members from across the state. Their training facility and headquarters are in College Station, but teams in each region of the state are gathered and deployed during dangerous weather events. Teams work closely with local authorities and jurisdictions to assist when needed.
Throughout its history, Texas Task Force 1 has been involved in a wide variety of rescues said Stephen Bjune, public information officer for Texas Task Force 1.
“We’ve done search and rescues for the state since 1997, ranging from tornadoes in the Valley, the Aggie Bonfire collapse, the Columbia shuttle, Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike [and] Harvey,” Bjune said. “We’ve responded all across the country.”
Randy Prestage, a Texas Task Force 1 squad leader with the Gainesville Fire Department, said his squad was activated the morning of Oct. 16 and drove from Gainesville to Llano as part of the western region package sent out to the flooding site.
“We’ve just been monitoring ongoing situations as far as rainfall, the river rise and falls, whether it be minor, moderate, significant flooding,” Prestage said. “We just have teams positioned throughout the bottom two-thirds of the state of Texas for assistance so we can go out and support the local jurisdictions.”
There are about 800 members on the task force, consisting of Texas Task Force 1 based out of College Station, Texas Task Force 2 from the Dallas-Fort Worth area and Texas Task Force 1 region 3 in south Texas.
“Our teams have been deployed since pretty much Oct. 7 in response to heavy flooding and heavy rain across the state of Texas,” Bjune said. “It started with the rain out in Junction, Texas on the Llano River which caused historic flooding. Several RV Parks and homes were washed away and so we did the eventual rescues for the people that were swept away in it. Then we went back the next week with search teams to do recovery for the unfortunate four people who were missing still to find their remains so we could bring closure to the families.”
Texas Task Force 1 has also done swift water rescue, floodwater rescue and evacuations as far north as the Denton area and as south as Brownsville. They have also gone as far west as Carr County and as far east as Walker and Trinity counties. In some places, it only takes half an inch of water to make it into flood conditions, according to Bjune.
“The Trinity River, the Brazos River, the Colorado River, the Oasis River and the Rio Grande River — all huge rivers with large populations that live near them have all been in various levels of flood stage because we just keep getting rain and then immediately followed by more rain and more rain,” Bjune said. “All the reservoirs and the rivers fill up and the ground gets saturated. There’s just no place for the rain to go and it just starts flooding almost immediately.”
Palmer Buck, a water group supervisor for Texas Task Force 1 from the Austin Fire Department, is responsible for managing one or more boat squads when his team goes out on missions or deployments. Buck said in the last three weeks there have been three deployments to the Texas Hill Country due to flooding, one of which was from the events in Junction.
“Turn around, don’t drown,” Buck said. “Don’t get out and travel, don’t drive through the water, that’s when you get yourself in trouble. It’s very rare that we actually have people that are actually killed in their homes. Usually it’s when they get up onto the roads and get out. It’s when they get in their cars and drive.”

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