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STORM geared up to save lives at Longhorn Caverns, other ‘strange terrains’

Longhorn Cavern State Park manager Michelle Devaney (second from left), donated equipment to STORM (Strange Terrain Organized Rescue Members) that the group needs in rescues at the cavern and other areas of Burnet and Llano counties Aug. 9. STORM representatives Scott Gillaspia (left), Janet Goble, James Goble, Travis Warren, T.C. Warren and rescue dog Valor stand with Devaney at the park with two bags of specialty equipment. Staff photo by Jared Fields


BURNET — Scott Gillaspia grew up visiting Longhorn Cavern State Park, dreaming of “rescuing the damsel in distress and finding treasure.”

Today, he might not have found that treasure, but Gillaspia does rescue people from the cave as commander of STORM (Strange Terrain Organized Rescue Members).

“We get down there and, if they fall in more extreme parts of the cave, rescue them and backboard them,” Gillaspia said. “A lot of us are paramedics, firefighters and some law enforcement, so we’ve got the basics on how to treat patients and people.”

STORM volunteer members train at Longhorn Caverns and have rescued a number of people from the caverns and other hard-to-reach places in the surrounding area since the team’s creation in 1999.

Michelle Devaney, who manages the park with husband Shawn, has worked closely with STORM since 2000. As a show of appreciation and thanks, Devaney presented team members with specialized equipment at the park Aug. 9.

“If anything happens, these guys are trained and they know my facility,” Devaney said. “They have assisted in a number of rescues that went off very, very well because of that training.”

The bags, pulleys and rope might seem simple but cost a lot on a volunteer budget.

“I want to make sure they have the things they need. When I call them up in a panic and I’ve got an issue here, they’ve got everything they need,” Devaney said. “That’s just my way of saying ‘thank you.'”

Members said they appreciated the gift and Devaney’s continued support.

“(Devaney) lets us come out here and do our thing, and we’ve helped with trail maintenance,” STORM treasurer Janet Goble said.

STORM has responded to cave and missing person rescues in Burnet, Llano, Lampasas and San Saba counties since forming. The team currently has about 10 active members and is open to potential volunteers.

Some of their newest members have more hair than most.

Valor, an 11-month-old Australian shepherd, is training to be one of a few rescue dogs in the group.

The dogs can be a comfort to people in a rescue situation.

“If we’re not immediately able to get to a person, we can put water in a backpack, a walkie-talkie, and (the dog) could be a comfort until we are organized enough to get our equipment together and make a rescue,” team member Travis Warren said.

The team trains at Longhorn Caverns about once a month. Anyone interested in learning more about the group can email Gillaspia at or search for “S.T.O.R.M.” on Facebook.