Days after Hurricane Harvey swept into Texas with pounding rains and catastrophic flooding, Northwest Indiana emergency responders and service organizations are moving to provide assistance to the thousands suffering in the storm's wake.

"We have our bags and suitcases packed and we're ready to go at a moment's notice," said Ron Donahue, owner of inHealth, a private ambulance service in Valparaiso, LaPorte and South Bend. "We have a few ambulances on standby and we have quite a few of our staff members ready."

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Harvey, which has been downgraded to a tropical storm, struck central Texas and Houston's metropolitan area over the weekend, forcing thousands to evacuate their homes, destroying many homes and businesses and claiming at least nine lives.

The Northwest Indiana chapter of American Red Cross sent an emergency response vehicle to the Houston metro area Saturday, according to Beverly Wright-Thames, disaster program specialist for the chapter. The vehicle primarily will be responsible for mobile feeding and providing food, water and toiletries to displaced people and first responders.

The chapter also sent a few volunteers to Texas, with more preparing to fly out in the next 24 hours, Wright-Thamessaid.

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security, which coordinates disaster support with agencies throughout the state, has not yet sent resources to Texas, Homeland Security officials said. State officials have been alerted and are on standby.

"At some point the response teams that are down there are going to get exhausted and that's when they start sending in resources from other states," said Gary McKay, logistics section chief and liaison officer for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security District 1 Task Force.

McKay said Indiana Department of Homeland Security is prepared to deploy probably 40 to 50 people from across the state.

"Right now all of our task force teams within Indiana are on standby," he said.

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security task force is composed of police officers, firefighters, hospital personnel, mental heath professionals and people ranging from several other professions, McKay said.

Thus far, the only unit deployed to Texas for relief efforts has been a homeland security swift water rescue team out of northern Indiana that is trained to rescue people from flood waters, McKay said.

If deployed, Donahue said his team likely would assist in evacuation efforts, helping patients in nursing homes and hospitals relocate to other facilities.

As images and video footage show the extent of the damage caused by Harvey — destroyed homes, people wading through waist-deep water, toppled trees and light poles — both Donahue and McKay said they are eager to get to Texas to lend their support.

"We're ready. All of our assets throughout Indiana are pretty much ready to go. We're ready to get down there and help people," McKay said.

"Whether or not we go, it would be great to go, our people are prepared," Donahue said. "We've gone through this training of what it takes to get through this disaster, so we're always ready."

Wright-Thames said she does not know how long the Northwest Indiana American Red Cross unit will be in Texas.

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"This will be an ongoing process and an ongoing relief operation because of the devastation and the magnitude of this, so we'll be out there helping for an extended period of time," she said.

Texas officials say at least 9 dead as Harvey-related flooding continues

The remnants of Hurricane Harvey pelted Texas on Monday as forecasters warned that the rains would continue and flooding would spread to neighboring states.

jaanderson@tribpub.com

Twitter @JavonteA

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