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Travis County Braces For Storm
A key part of the storm preparation for Tuesday and any rescue missions in or around Central Texas is StarFlight. Their three helicopters run about 1,000 flights per year across 19 counties, with around 50 of those missions being rescue missions, the most being 25 in one day.
The medical equipment’s loaded, the harnesses and gear on standby, as StarFlight crew members went through the checklist and made sure the rescue ropes were ready Tuesday morning ahead of the afternoon’s expected storm.
"Extra diligence when you know a storm like this is coming," said Casey Ping, StarFlight Program Manager, on the organization’s strategy Tuesday.
Ping says StarFlight brought in extra crews, put others on standby, and moved all three of StarFlight’s helicopters, even the one scheduled for maintenance Tuesday, into the main hangar overnight from area hospitals, ready for that first call.
"Always some anxiety when you're dispatched," said Ping.
When dispatch gets a rescue call, typically a low water crossing rescue, StarFlight goes, sometimes providing overhead support, like lighting, other times, serving as the victim’s best bet for survival.
While the choppers can get to the scene three times as quickly as cars and can stay farther away from the water, wires, trees, and Mother Nature present their own unique challenges.
"You have to determine, ‘Can we safely do this?’" said Ping. When asked what happens if they can’t safely complete the mission, he replied, “That's why there is always an effort between ground and air resources."
Boats are a backup option, but what’s the backup plan if a helicopter is needed and all are taken?
"We do work closely with Texas DPS air unit,” said Ping. We've got National Guard here. Sometimes if that happens you’re also making decisions about which one is the biggest priority."
As for the City of Austin, Candice Wade Cooper, spokesperson for Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said officials are on standby and monitoring the situation, but there are no special plans in place.
Cooper said the city has launched ATX Floods, a website with a real-time map of flooded low water crossings and closures: http://www.atxfloods.com/.
By Adam Bennett