Sept. 24, 2005 —
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — President George W. Bush was at U.S. Northern Command monitoring Hurricane Rita as the once Category 5 hurricane barreled toward the already battered Gulf Coast Sept. 23.
Side-by-side the men and women of the USNORTHCOM Joint Operations Center, the president and Department of Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff watched as Hurricane Rita thundered toward the Gulf Coast Sept. 23, just three weeks after Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the area.
The president thanked Adm. Timothy J. Keating and his staff for “a series of briefings that really do comfort me in knowing that our federal government is well organized and well prepared to deal with (Hurricane) Rita,” Bush said.
“I’ve come here to watch NORTHCOM in action,” the president said, “to see first-hand the capacity of our military to plan, organize and move equipment to help the people in the affected areas, in this case Louisiana and Texas.”
Rita made landfall at 3:30 a.m. EDT Sept. 24 as a Category 3 storm just east of Sabine Pass, on the Texas-Louisiana border, with top winds of 120 mph and warnings of up to 25 inches of rain, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The president returned to USNORTHCOM early morning Sept. 24 for a series of briefings on the aftermath of Hurricane Rita.
“We’ve had full briefings on the storm, its activities, the first order of business now is to search and rescue teams to pull people out of harm’s way,” he said.
The president concluded his comments by thanking the men and women of USNORTHCOM.
“I want to thank all the folks who work here at NORTHCOM for doing their duty … which is to organize and rally the assets of the federal government to help our fellow citizens who are in need.”
USNORTHCOM has been tracking Hurricane Rita for days in order to identify what and when further resources may be needed to meet Requests for Assistance that the Federal Emergeny Management Agency may issue prior to and in the wake of Hurricane Rita.
The command was involved in the evacuation process and pre-positioned federal assets in anticipation of Rita making landfall. USNORTHCOM coordinated the military effort which included:
- Aero evacuation of more than 3,000 critically-ill patients
- 250 buses to assist evacuation
- 15 military ambulances to evacuate ambulatory nursing home patients
- 50 helicopters to assist with damage assessment, search and rescue and movement of critical supplies
- 5 Navy ships to follow in the storm and provide assistance with recovery and medical operations
- 800 Marines to provide humanitarian assistance
- 340 medical personnel to man 10 field medical shelters
- Logistics to feed 500,000 meals per day at 15 locations and 25 distribution centers for food, water, ice and other basic necessities
- Provided 45 truck loads of ice and water, and 25 truck loads of meals ready to eat, or MREs.
DoD assets are employed in support of a Primary Federal Agency [in this case FEMA] when local and state assets are overwhelmed or exhausted, and when DoD assistance is requested by the PFA and subsequently approved by the Secretary of Defense. The impact of providing such assistance will not adversely affect military preparedness.
In addition to Hurricane Rita, USNORTHCOM is monitoring other tropical weather patterns and continues assisting with Hurricane Katrina recovery and providing for the defense of the United States.