SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8 / CNS) - A search-and-rescue team from San Diego that previously deployed to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 arrived Monday night to a staging area in San Antonio to offer help to the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
Urban Search and Rescue California Task Force 8 is one of 28 federal urban search and rescue teams and specializes in large-scale urban disasters, and more specifically confined space search-and-rescue operations when structures have collapsed, according to the city of San Diego.
Task Force 8, which is made up of 21 agencies from across the county, including nearly all of the county's fire departments, was activated Saturday night and deployed early Sunday morning. Videos and photographs posted on Facebook showed emergency crews loading several semi-trailers with gear and supplies.
"They are currently just past El Paso," San Diego Fire-Rescue Department spokeswoman Monica Munoz said late this morning. "They were originally en route to the staging area in Fort Worth, then they were directed to Houston, and most recently they were directed to the staging area in San Antonio."
Harvey, which is now a tropical storm, made landfall in Texas on Friday night as a Category 4 hurricane before moving back over the Gulf of Mexico. It has already dropped more than 30 inches of rain in some areas and caused devastating flooding in Houston and the surrounding areas. The Houston police chief said this morning that authorities have already made at least 2,000 rescues in the city.
The San Diego team on its way to provide aid includes 24 members of the SDFRD, Munoz said. The Santee Fire Department and Heartland Fire & Rescue both tweeted about sending personnel with the team.
Task Force 8 is made up of 21 agencies plus a structural engineer from the Development Services Department, Munoz said. The team consists of 70 technical rescue and incident management specialists and is coordinated by the city of San Diego through the SDFRD.
"San Diego team members have been dispatched to the World Trade Center after Sept. 11, 2001, the Northridge earthquake in 1994, the 1995 Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing and several hurricane disaster areas, including when Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana in 2005," according to the city of San Diego website.
The task force has extensive experience responding to hurricane disasters. Aside from Hurricane Katrina, Task Force 8 members also deployed to Hurricane Rita, which struck the Gulf about a month after Katrina; Hurricane Ernesto, which struck the east coast in 2006; and the busy hurricane season of 2008 that saw Gustav, Ike and Hanna all wreak havoc in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, according to its website.
The San Diego-based Sempra Energy Foundation on Monday pledged $150,000 in disaster-relief assistance funds to help Hurricane Harvey
"Thousands of families have been affected by what some are calling one of the fiercest storms in U.S. history," said Dennis Arriola, the foundation's
chairman. "It is our hope that this donation may help bring comfort to the Gulf Coast communities that have been displaced by this devastating storm."
The Sempra Energy Foundation will make immediate donations of $75,000 each to the American Red Cross Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund and Americares to support relief efforts in Texas and Louisiana.
The foundation also will match up to an additional $50,000 in employee contribution, so the full amount of giving could reach $250,000.
On Tuesday, the Humane Society will head out to help the thousands of animals affected by the flooding.
Members will leave at 6 a.m., and head for Houston where they will assist with pets who are separated from their families.
Jessica Owen assisted during Hurricane Ivan. She is one of ten people from the San Diego Humane Society assisting Houston's SPCA, and the thousands of animals and livestock who are stranded in the flood waters.
"Whether it is cleaning kennels or collecting animals that are brought back from the field and brought back to shelter for owners to come back and claim them," said Owen.
In 2006, Congress passed a law requiring states seeking federal disaster assistance to include pet in their evacuation plans.
For more ways to help victims of Harvey visit News 8's resource page below.
Some of the footage in this video story was shot using a GoPro camera.