Abbott tours State Operations Center as first responders prepare for weather

Governor Greg Abbott thanked first responders for their work during a tour Tuesday of the State Operations Center.

"I'm proud of everyone in the room and of the first responders across the state and the challenges we've faced," said Abbott. A majority of the state is under a flash flood watch and parts of North Texas are cleaning up from flooding and a deadly tornado.

Officials briefed Abbott about the weather conditions.

"Texas is going to absorb a lot of rain in the coming days and protecting life is the most important thing," said Abbott who stressed the importance of listening to local officials.

Abbott says his priority is making sure resources are in the place to respond to situations that may arise. That includes swift water rescues in Central Texas. Two helicopter teams are on standby at ABIA if they are needed. The Texas Army National Guard flies the helicopters and Texas Task Force 1 crews work as rescuers.

"Most of what we do is normally cars in low water crossings where they shouldn't be," said Scott Bartell who is ready to suit up if he's needed. Bartell is a rescue swimmer with TTF1 and a captain with the Austin Fire Department.

"From the receipt of the mission we can be off the ground in as little as 15 minutes," said pilot Rob Meischen who flies Lakota helicopters for the Texas Army National Guard.

"If your local officials tell you to evacuate you need to evacuate. Don't allow yourself to be put in a situation where you could be compromised by water. It's not worth the risk," said Abbott.

With saturated soil and more rain on the way first responders know just how dangerous and powerful water can be.

"It's always worse than you expect and it can quickly turn into a bad situation you don't want to be in," said Meischen.

"If we're out there someone is having a bad day," said Bartell.

Bartell and Meischen stress the saying turn around, don't drown.


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