by Jennifer G. Williams
Hurricane Harvey slowly made its way ashore in August, racking up record after record in the process.
In the end, Harvey may become the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. The storm set a rainfall record for any tropical storm or hurricane in the lower 48 states, with rainfall totals hitting 50 inches and the rain still falling. Rivers across the entire affected area posted 500- to 1,000-year-record flood levels, still rising on the 12-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina Aug. 29.
And as a named storm after more than five days, Harvey set a new mark for being the longest any hurricane has remained a named storm after making landfall.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott activated the entire Texas National Guard — 14,000 Soldiers and Airmen — in response to the disaster. The prolonged rainfall, boosted by the stagnant storm system, caused flooding well into September.
Several other state Guard units converged on the hardest-hit areas to offer manpower, equipment and support.
“This will be a big undertaking,” said Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, the chief of the National Guard Bureau. Lengyel,said, noting that before it ends, Guard troops from “dozens of National Guard Units from Several States Come Together other states” could be involved, in an area stretching from Corpus Christi to Houston and areas inland that have been hit by disastrous flooding.
Other Guard missions in the stricken areas include bridging, water rescue, logistics movement, airfield openings and medical water purification.
Harvey made landfall Aug. 25 near Rockport, Texas, north of Corpus Christi, as the first Category 4 hurricane to landfall in the U.S. since Charley in August 2004. The storm moved inland, then back to the coast before heading ashore again.
“It is imperative that we do everything possible to protect the lives and safety of people across the state of Texas as we continue to face the aftermath of this storm,” Abbott said on Aug. 28. “The Texas National Guard is working closely with FEMA and federal troops to respond urgently to the growing needs of Texans who have fallen victim to Hurricane Harvey, and the activation of the entire Guard will assist in the efforts already underway.”
“The men and women of the Texas National Guard are working around the clock to support all relief efforts from Hurricane Harvey,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, Texas adjutant general. “We will not rest until we have made every effort to rescue all those in harm’s way. We will remain here as long as we are needed.”
Irma on the Heels
Before communities in Texas and Louisiana could recover from Hurricane Harvey, a new threat made a beeline towards the U.S. coast.
Hurricane Irma — the strongest Atlantic hurricane in recorded history — wreaked havoc on islands in the Caribbean and skirted just north of Puerto Rico.
The Category 5 storm, with sustained winds of 185 mph, at press time was closing in on the Florida coast, and the military once again sprang into action.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency and called up the 7,000 men and women of the Florida Guard.
National Guard members from other states also were on standby to help where needed.
…before it ends, Guard troops from “dozens of other states” could be involved… — Gen. Joseph Lengyel
Florida’s adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Michael A. Calhoun, stressed the need to heed warnings about the storm. “Your Florida National Guard [is] ready and prepared to respond — are you?” Calhoun asked. “Your preparedness ensures that … Guard personnel and equipment can respond where the need is the greatest. We will be there to help, but I ask that you help us by being as ready as we are.”
Steve Marshall with the National Guard Bureau and the Texas Governor’s Office contributed to this report.