Military response in Texas following storm could expand soon
The military's role in Storm Harvey rescue and recovery efforts has been limited by weather and flooding but could soon expand by tenfold or more, a senior National Guard officer said.
Air force Major General James Witham said there currently are about 3,500 National Guard troops involved, including about 3,000 from the Texas National Guard.
He estimated that the Texas guard number could rise to between 8,000 and 10,000 in the coming days, possibly joined by 20,000 to 30,000 from other states.
Maj Gen Witham is the director of domestic operations for the National Guard Bureau.
He said the military is providing everything that has been requested by Texas governor Greg Abbott, although the response is constrained by the stormy weather and by flooding that limits use of roadways.
He said weather has limited the use of military helicopters over the past two or three days, so the Guard has instead used boats and ground vehicles to rescue stranded residents in the Houston area.
Besides the additional National Guard troops from other states, there are about 1,000 active-duty military forces in position to provide assistance if called up by civilian authorities, he said.
Asked whether Texas authorities recognised the magnitude of the disaster quickly enough, he said: "That's debatable."
He said in some respects the need was recognised quickly, but the extraordinary amount of rainfall and flooding exceeded what state planners could have foreseen.
"So if you're looking at an event that only occurs every few hundred years, the planning that would have normally occurred for that probably wasn't here," he said.
"So, in many cases, the request for assistance, not only for the National Guard but federal forces, may not have been anticipated quickly enough."