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National Guard to help manage portable morgues as deaths mount in Rio Grande Valley

On top of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, the hard-hit area is keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Hanna as it heads toward South Texas.

WESLACO, Texas — The Texas National Guard will help the Rio Grande Valley manage portable morgues brought in for COVID-19 victims as deaths there continue to surge.

“The funeral homes are at capacity and overflowing,” said Gene Allen, president of the Texas Funeral Directors Association that’s helping with emergency response, including portable morgue management. “Most hospitals are at capacity, as well. It’s a major overflow problem all around.”

Allen said the refrigerated trucks were already filling up. The five trailers have the capacity to hold 200 bodies, according to Allen.

This week, Hidalgo County recorded a record number of deaths in one day, saying 49 people died of COVID-19 related complications.

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Two TFDA teams, one from the Fort Worth area, are headed to the Valley to help move the deceased from hospitals and funeral homes to the temporary morgue compound set up on the property of Weslaco Mid Valley Airport.

According to Allen, the Texas Funeral Directors Association is managing two portable morgues that belong to the Association and three provided by FEMA.

In an email, Brandon Jones, the Texas Military Department Press Secretary told KHOU 11 the Department is partnering with Cameron and Hidalgo counties with coordination of portable morgue management.

“These are resources we have ready to support anytime we are called upon,” Jones wrote.

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He said the exact number of soldiers for this mission wasn’t yet available.

“We are still working through the request,” Jones said.

The TFDA disaster team commander is from Dallas and he’s doing a “super job of coordinating that facility,” according to Allen.

Allen said the more pressing issue as of right now is Tropical Storm Hanna, which is heading in the direction of the Valley, with heavy rain tonight and tomorrow.