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Guardsmen head to Texas to watch hurricane
Sonny Perdue
Gov. Sonny Perdue
After watching Hurricane Dean barrel through the Caribbean over the weekend and thrash Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on Tuesday, members of the Georgia National Guard are prepared to help with relief efforts, if the hurricane moves northward.
Gov. Sonny Perdue announced that more than 40 Georgia National Guard members would deploy to Texas this week to provide emergency aide, should Dean shift toward the Lonestar State.
“Georgians always show care and generosity to our neighbors in other states struck by disaster,” Perdue said in a statement. “Today, I’d like to thank our guardsmen who are leaving their families and jobs to answer the call of duty in Texas.”
Several aircraft, including Black Hawk helicopters from Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta and heavy lift CH-47 Chinook helicopters from Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, are also prepared for deployment, if necessary.
Georgia guard officials are monitoring the need to send aircraft and will make a determination on whether or not to deploy the helicopters based on Dean’s direction and the severity of the damage caused by the hurricane.
According to the governor’s office, eight members of the Georgia Air National Guard’s 283rd Combat Communications Squadron from Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta have already departed for Austin, Texas where they will set up critical communications links.
The largest group of guardsmen scheduled to deploy will be from the 171st Aviation Regiment at Dobbins.
About 15 soldiers of the unit will form a command and control headquarters for an aviation task force of helicopters and crews from several states. The aviators departed Tuesday morning for San Antonio where they will respond, if necessary, to relief efforts along the Texas coast.
The preparations will more than likely turnout to be a test run for future hurricane and other emergency relief collaboration efforts, however. Forecasters expect Dean to continue across the Yucatan and re-enter the Gulf of Mexico before striking central Mexico on Wednesday; it does not pose a direct threat to the United States.
The hurricane weakened into a Category 3 storm Tuesday after slamming into the Yucatan Peninsula as a Category 5 behemoth. It had sustained winds of nearly 165 mph and gusts that reached 200 mph at landfall.
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