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Utah Team Heading to Texas in Preparation for Hurricane Dean

Utah Team Heading to Texas in Preparation for Hurricane Dean

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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Courtney Orton ReportingHurricane Dean continues to push west through the Caribbean, lashing coastlines with 150 mile per hour winds. The Dominican Republic is already being pounded by the Category 4 storm, and in Jamaica the prime minister says this could be a national disaster.

Tourists jammed the Kingston airport, trying to get out of the storm's path. Cayman Airways added 15 flights to Florida to help get people out of Jamaica; all of those flights quickly sold out.

Residents in Texas are already preparing for a possible strike by Hurricane Dean, and if Dean hits, Utah firefighters will be there to help. After being on standby for almost a week, Unified Fire Authority and Salt Lake City firefighters with Utah Task Force One packed up Sunday morning and hit the road on a bus headed for Texas on a moment's notice.

Travis Handberg, with Unified Fire Authority, said, "They're very excited, they left in good moods, excited to provide a service for citizens of Texas, excited to make Utah proud."

If Hurricane Dean hits Texas, 34 Utah firefighters will be there. Forecasters expect the category 4 storm to continue into the Gulf of Mexico and possibly make landfall in Texas this week.

R. David Paulison, FEMA administrator, said, "These storms, like I said earlier, are unpredictable. If I was a Texas resident, particularly along the southeast coast, I would make sure my home is ready. I would make sure that I had my three-day supply of food, water. If I was in an evacuation zone, I'd have my plan in place of where I'm going to go and how I'm going to get there and what I'm going to take with me."

The task force was activated by FEMA Saturday night and they're expected to arrive in Texas Monday. The team will then start preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

"Formulating plans, kind of re-assessing the situation in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is where they're going to stage and then take it from there depending on what the storm does," Handberg said.

The storm will ultimately dictate what the task force does and how long they are there, but they say they are prepared for anything.

Handberg said, "They've got all kinds of rescue gear, different gear to perform extrication types of situations, rescue dogs, medical specialists."

For now, all Utah firefighters can do is make preparations. The American Red Cross in Texas also is preparing for Dean to make landfall. Since it is unknown if the storm will strike the U.S., teams are making sure the necessary plans are in place.

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