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Tennessee Task Force One deploys as Harvey approaches Texas coast

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A team of first responders from the Mid-South was deployed to Texas as Hurricane Harvey gets ready to make landfall.

Tennessee Task Force One took off from the Memphis Fire Department’s training center in Frayser early Friday morning. They told WREG they are headed to San Antonio where they will be on standby should they be needed for wide area search and rescue efforts or swift water rescues.

The 80 man team is made up of local firefighters and first responders from all around the Memphis area. Leaders said the team could be in Texas for 10 days or more, depending on the need for their services.

On Thursday, Harvey intensified into a hurricane with the potential for up to 3 feet of rain, 125 mile per hour winds and 12-foot storm surges. Forecasters labeled Harvey a “life-threatening storm” that posed a “grave risk.” Millions of people braced for a prolonged battering that could swamp dozens of counties more than 100 miles inland.

Landfall is predicted for late Friday or early Saturday between Port O’Connor and Matagorda Bay, a 30-mile (48-kilometer) stretch of coastline about 70 miles (110 kilometers) northeast of Corpus Christi

Harvey grew quickly Thursday from a tropical depression into a Category 1 hurricane. Fueled by warm Gulf of Mexico waters, it was projected to become a major Category 3 hurricane. The last storm of that category to hit the U.S. was Hurricane Wilma in October 2005 in Florida.

Superstorm Sandy, which pummeled New York and New Jersey in 2012, never had the high winds and had lost tropical status by the time it struck, but it was nevertheless devastating without formally being called a major hurricane.

“We’re forecasting continuing intensification right up until landfall,” National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said.

All seven Texas counties on the coast from Corpus Christi to the western end of Galveston Island have ordered mandatory evacuations of tens of thousands of residents from all low-lying areas. In four of those counties, officials ordered their entire county evacuated and warned those who stayed behind that no one could be guaranteed rescue. Voluntary evacuations have been urged for Corpus Christi itself and for the Bolivar Peninsula, a sand spit near Galveston where many homes were washed away by the storm surge of Hurricane Ike in 2008.

According to the Associated Press, Texas officials expressed concern that not as many people are evacuating compared with previous storms.

“A lot of people are taking this storm for granted thinking it may not pose much of a danger to them,” Gov. Greg Abbott told Houston television station KPRC. “Please heed warnings and evacuate as soon as possible.”

Abbott has activated about 700 members of the state National Guard ahead of Hurricane Harvey making landfall.

Other teams, like Tennessee Task Force One, will also be ready to jump in if necessary.