Texas resources placed on standby ahead of Laura

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Various resources to respond to severe weather were placed on standby Sunday across Texas ahead of Tropical Storm Laura, which could make landfall in or near the state as a hurricane later this week.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Sunday he has preemptively declared a state disaster for 23 Texas counties, nearly all of them along the Gulf Coast.

Laura was expected to enter the Gulf of Mexico later this week and strengthen into a hurricane before making landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border.

The Texas Military Department, which includes the Texas Army National Guard, will have at least 860 personnel, as well as helicopters and high-water vehicles ready to respond to Laura.

The Texas Department of Public Safety also has 1,000 troopers ready to respond as well as swift water rescue teams and helicopters.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will provide helicopters, water rescue personnel and dogs and drones.

About 150 individuals with Texas A&M Task Force 1 and 2, statewide urban search and rescue groups, are also on standby.

Abbott said the state’s response to any impacts by Laura will also be guided by efforts to continue combating the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

After a spike in coronavirus cases during much of the summer, the state in recent weeks has seen an ongoing decline in the number of people testing positive and the number of hospitalizations due to the virus, Abbott said.

The Texas Military Department will also have disinfection teams and COVID-19 mobile testing squads ready to go, Abbott said. Two shelters will also be set up for individuals who are dealing with health impacts from the virus.

“We cannot allow these oncoming hurricanes to set us back in the advancements that we’ve made in combating COVID-19,” Abbott said.

The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.