|About 700 troops from the Texas State Guard were deployed Monday to assist in setting up emergency shelters throughout the Rio Grande Valley if needed. UTPA housed the troops during their stay.|
The University of Texas-Pan American is hosting about 700 service members of the Texas State Guard who have been activated to the Rio Grande Valley in anticipation of Tropical Storm Alex.
"It's part of our commitment to supporting the state," said Richard Costello, UTPA's director of environmental health and safety.
The troops are expected to stay through Tuesday. If they are needed, the Texas State Guard plans to open about 20 shelters throughout the Valley as localities request them. If not, the troops will be redeployed and another team will come in to assist localities and agencies after the storm.
The University has offered its facilities to the state's military outfit in times of emergency for the past several years. In 2008, the University hosted up to 400 state guard members during Hurricane Dolly.
Service members will be housed on campus at the University's Troxel Hall dormitory and the Health and Physical Education Building II. Sodexho, the University's contracted food services provider, will prepare meals for the troops.
University officials have been finalizing plans in preparation for the storm, which is expected to become a Category 2 Hurricane by the time it reaches the Rio Grande Valley Thursday morning.
The storm already has caused flooding and mudslides that have left at least four people dead as it crossed Central America, according to media reports.
On Monday, Gov. Rick Perry declared a state of disaster for South Texas counties expected to be affected by the hurricane, including the four that comprise the Valley: Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy.
“We continue to closely monitor this storm, and are preparing accordingly for its potential impact to our communities,” Perry said in a press release his office issued Monday. “Tropical Storm Alex is now in the Gulf, and it is imperative that residents pay attention to this storm, heed warnings from their local leaders, and take the steps necessary to protect their families, homes and businesses.”
For updates and other information regarding the storm and the University's response, visit www.utpa.edu/hurricane.