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Four firefighters from the Houston Fire Department have been sent to North Carolina in response to Hurricane Florence, and one Houston firefighter has been sent to Hawaii to help with Tropical Storm Olivia.
The firefighters are members of Texas Task Force 1, an emergency response team tased with urban search and rescue. A team of 16 responders was activated by FEMA this week.
“What our team specifically will be focusing on is the areas where flood and flash flood becomes and issue,” said Stephen Bejune, a spokesperson for Texas Task Force 1. Bjune said the task force is trained specifically in water rescue.
“They’re able to get in there and do those rescues where traditionally local departments may not have that skill or might not have those resources or might not have enough of those resources and trained personnel,” he said.
Meanwhile, officials continue to watch the Gulf of Mexico for potential storms. The National Hurricane Center on Wednesday morning downgraded the chance of a tropical depression or storm forming in the Gulf from 70 to 60 percent.
“While we’ve sent 16 people to North Carolina in a few boats there are still ample resources in the state to support Texans,” Bejune said.
“The track and intensity are still very uncertain, some indication reaching the Texas coast sometime around Friday. But the track and intensity, we don’t really have a defined system yet, really difficult to predict,” Riley said.
Officials say a storm approaching the United States Gulf Coast in the next week could present problems, especially for locations already saturated by several inches of rain over the last couple of days.