Storms move into central Texas, first responders prepare

CENTRAL TEXAS— Water rescue modifications were made to Texas National Guard helicopters Thursday morning.

As of noon, the Texas Guard had not been officially put on Weather Stand By, but Capt. Jordan Boyd says it’s a mission they are expecting.

"Yesterday, in anticipation of the weather, we kind of gave the guys a heads up," Capt. Boyd said.

A few days ago Guard crews were pulling water out of lakes in Bastrop County in order to fight the Hidden Pines fire.

"In Texas obviously you never know what you are going to get in weather patterns. We've transition before and actually been on fire duty and had to recall aircraft to flood duty, so it’s kind of what we are preparing for this time," Capt. Boyd said.

Heavy rain storms moved into West Texas on Wednesday. Flooding and water rescues were reported from El Paso to Odessa. While the storm was still to the west of Austin, potential problem areas along Bull Creek remain deceptively calm. Swiftwater rescue team members know how quickly conditions can change.

The Austin Fire Department has five boat teams in Austin. The plan is to have another five ready for activation by this weekend. The call for help can come at any time, and according to AFD Capt. Randy Gunn, it is usually the result of a mistake that’s avoidable.

"It’s the attitude from some people that, well, ‘I’m not going very far,’ or ‘I’m in a big truck and I can make it.’ There's always people, will talk themselves into that one excuse that thinks they can make it at that time," Capt. Gunn said.

In the STAR Flight hanger— on Old Manor Road— crews also spent the morning ramping up and loading up storm gear.

About this time two years ago, the STAR Flight team was pulling people out of the Halloween Flood along Onion Creek.  Chris Postiglinoe says they are fully aware of the anniversary.

"We rescued 32 people that night. I think we had three dogs. Austin EMS pulled about 600 out of the water, so from that incident we have prepared a unified command. We discuss using the appropriate air assets we are ready for an event that size,” Paostliglione said. “We took the lessons learned from that experience and translated that in to our preparation to something similar to this."