Editor’s Note: Port Arthur, Texas, was hit hard by Hurricane Rita early Saturday morning. This story was written prior to Rita making landfall. Check our National News link for the latest on Hurricane Rita.

.

Yet another large and powerful hurricane is battering the Gulf Coast area — this one being Hurricane Rita — and a Pauls Valley city official is right there in the middle of relief efforts afterward.

That official is Richard Ragland, a Pauls Valley City Council member who also happens to be an Edmond firefighter.

Ragland is part of a 10-member task force made up of Edmond firefighters and police officers who left Friday afternoon on their way to Port Arthur, Texas, to help out after Hurricane Rita passes through the Gulf Coast area.

“We’ve been through a lot of tragedies here in Oklahoma,” Ragland said shortly before the team’s departure.

“People have come to help us, and it’s kind of nice to get the opportunity to use our training and give some of that help back.”

Ragland, a city councilman here since 1999, has been a firefighter for 21 years starting in Pauls Valley before he took a position in Edmond nearly 12 years ago.

Although three of the Ragland’s team members in Edmond were in the gulf area for some training prior to the recent Hurricane Katrina and stayed to help out afterward, the team as a whole was not deployed into action.

This time it will be different thanks to the Edmond team itself, which began getting the word out they were available to help.

Officials from Port Arthur, located just east of Galveston, ultimately answered the offer.

“We had made contact with area towns and emergency operation centers in the gulf area,” Ragland said.

“We called and let them know we were available to help. Port Arthur called and said, ‘We want you guys to come and help.’”

Going with the six firefighters and four police officers from Edmond are several vehicles and plenty of equipment needed for rescue work and clearing roads in a disaster area.

“We’re going west of the hurricane to wait for the storm to pass. We want to be away from the storm so we can protect our equipment,” Ragland said.

“But we want to be within quick striking distance.”

More specifically, that means the team was expected to spend Friday night at a fire department somewhere west of the hurricane’s projected path — likely as far away as 100 to 150 miles.

They will then head to the Port Arthur area after the storm passes.

In fact, similar teams from Phoenix, Ariz., and Los Angeles, Calif., were already positioned in San Antonio and also waiting to spring into action, according to Ragland.

“The overall objective for us is to help anybody down there,” the Pauls Valley councilman said.

“But the first objective is to punch a hole to the command post,” he said, referring to work meant to clear the roads needed to get emergency personnel into the post-hurricane areas needing the most help.

“Then we’ll just take the next assignment, whatever it will be.”

The Edmond group is ready to spend six days working in the gulf area as preparations are being made for the possibility of a second rescue team being rotated in afterward.

This Week's Circulars