Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Emergency Officials in Texas Prep for Isaac - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth (blog)

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The American Red Cross has opened a command center in Dallas and is getting volunteers ready in case shelters are opened in East Texas to house people moved out of the path of Tropical Storm Isaac.

Forecasters say Isaac, which could strengthen into a hurricane, targeted a broad swath of the Gulf Coast on Monday.

"This hurricane may not be a Katrina, it's not likely to be, but we don't know what happens tomorrow." said Anita Foster with the Red Cross. "We are preparing for as many as 10,000 people but we know we may get no one, we may get a hundred people, or we could get the 10,000, it could be greater than that."

Federal emergency officials in Texas have begun staging supplies in Louisiana in preparation for Tropical Storm Isaac.

More than 100 people at Federal Emergency Management Agency's regional headquarters in Denton are watching Tropical Storm Isaac's progress and helping to coordinate the federal response with state and local officials.

Tony Robinson, FEMA Region 6 acting administrator, said the agency learned some hard lessons after Hurricane Katrina, when the federal response fell far short.

“There’s greater collaboration and coordination, a lot more detailed planning," he said.

In addition to FEMA personnel, the group in Denton includes representatives from the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Transportation and the Army Corps of Engineers, among others.

FEMA teams from North Texas are already on the ground at the State Emergency Operations Center north of Baton Rouge, La.

They’re receiving truckloads of supplies from FEMA’s 320,000-square-foot warehouse in Fort Worth. Emergency response items such as meals, water, cots, blankets and hygiene kits have been placed at various points in Louisiana.

"Tonight’s a very critical night because we have the onset of tropical-storm-force winds along the coast, and those will be moving into the metro New Orleans area over tomorrow, so that the movement of our assets has to continue through to night to get them in place and be ready for when the storm hits," Robinson said.

Tropical Storm Issac is also affecting travel in North Texas and around the country.

The storm forced the cancellation of all flights in or out of Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport on Tuesday.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines also planned to cancel all of its flights to New Orleans on Wednesday.

The weather is also affecting flights into parts of Florida, Mississippi and Alabama.

The good news is many carriers are waiving the fee to change flights headed to the Gulf Coast.

NBC 5's Randy McIlwain contributed to this report.

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