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Sep 23, 8:34 PM EDT

Bush lands in Colorado to observe hurricane response from Northern Command


PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AP) -- President Bush arrived in Colorado Friday to monitor the approach of Hurricane Rita from the headquarters of the U.S. Northern Command.

Air Force One touched down at about 5:30 p.m. at this Colorado Springs base, which houses Northcom's Joint Operations Center. Bush went directly to a private briefing at the operations center, viewing huge television screens with a map of the hurricane.

The president was remaining at Peterson for the night. On Saturday, he was to have breakfast with troops, tour Northcom and get another hurricane update before heading to Texas.

Rita, packing 125-mph winds Friday, was expected to hit the Texas-Louisiana coast on Saturday.

Bush had planned to visit Texas before arriving in Colorado but dropped that stop because search and rescue teams there were being relocated as the huge storm shifted course, the White House said.

It was Bush's first look at the command since it was created in October 2002 in response to the 2001 terrorist attacks. Northcom coordinates the military response to domestic emergencies at the request of civilian authorities.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Sean Kelly, a Northcom spokesman, said the command was monitoring troop movements, military evacuations and plans to deal with the aftermath of the storm. It was also getting ice and generators ready for delivery and trying to determine the number of doctors and field hospitals needed.

"That was one of the key things we learned from Katrina," Kelly said.

Kelly said traffic control and protection of infrastructure, including oil refineries, was being left to the Texas National Guard.

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On the Net:

Northern Command: http://www.northcom.mil

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