- CFO Jimmy Patronis announces deployment of four Urban Search and Rescue Teams to Southwest Florida
- Each rescue team will be paired with Florida National Guard troops and medevac helicopters
- Each search team is made up of 90 personnel including doctors, structural engineers, and search specialists
Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis announced Thursday morning that four Urban Search and Rescue Teams (US&R) and two Virginia Teams have been deployed to Southwest Florida to help victims impacted by Hurricane Ian.
The rescue teams (TF-1, TF-2, VA-1, and VA-2) have deployed out of Fort Lauderdale to Fort Myers to begin life-saving missions and the Category 4 storm devastated Florida’s Gulf Coast.
“Early this morning the winds died down, so we got the teams closer to the impacted areas. When there’s light, these teams will be airlifted from the Ft. Myers area to area islands to begin lifesaving missions,” said Patronis. “Even before sunup, Task Force 2 began reconnaissance missions of Marco Island. Hurricane Ian basically sent the full force of the Gulf of Mexico over these islands, but fortunately Florida’s Urban Search & Rescue teams are the best-of-the-best when it comes to saving lives. They’ve got the training and the equipment to get the job done.”
The CFO noted in a news release that Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1 (FL-1 Miami-Dade County) will be flying out of Fort Myers to the Captiva barrier islands and Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 2 (FL-2 – City of Miami) is on scene and conducting reconnaissance missions of Marco Island.
Additionally, both Virginia Teams are on scene in Southwest Florida. Patronis said each team will be paired with the Florida National Guard and medevac helicopters and is vital in evacuating victims to safety to receive proper medical assistance.
The CFO added that task force is made up of approximately 90 personnel. This personnel includes physicians, structural engineers, search and rescue, and K-9s with handlers and will utilize search vehicles and boats in an attempt to rescue those left stranded by flooding and infrastructure collapse.
Hurricane Ian made landfall on Wednesday, battering Florida with sustained winds of 155 mph and gusts nearing 200. The Category 4 storm left a path of destruction across the Sunshine State, producing catastrophic flooding, strong winds, and storm surge, while leaving more than 2 million Florida homes and businesses without power.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said authorities have found two deaths believed to be related to the storm.
DeSantis further referred to the flood as a “500-year flood event,” indicating that Hurricane Ian is among the strongest storms ever to hit the state.
“My sense is that the water was very, very high,” DeSantis said. “But my hope is that those folks did go higher.”
Officials say they are focusing their efforts on bringing the teams to Lee County, where catastrophic flooding and storm surges were recorded throughout Wednesday, according to DeSantis.
“As soon as the storm passed, in the very wee hours of the morning first responders from the local, state and federal level, descended on Southwest Florida,” the governor said.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday morning said that they fear hundreds could be dead, with thousands more waiting to be rescued. The Sheriff’s Office told Good Morning America on Thursday that they are receiving thousands of 911 calls from people needing rescue,
“Early this morning the winds died down, so we got the teams closer to the impacted areas. When there’s light, these teams will be airlifted from the Ft. Myers area to area islands to begin lifesaving missions,” added Patronis. “Even before sunup, Task Force 2 began reconnaissance missions of Marco Island. Hurricane Ian basically sent the full force of the Gulf of Mexico over these islands.”
Mandatory evacuation orders were issued across at least 8 counties as of Tuesday morning, with efforts underway to get as many people to safe ground as possible.
Florida officials stated on Wednesday that there were a contingent of individuals that refused to evacuate, but emergency services were working at the time to keep a record of those who remained in order to check in with them once the storm subsides.
At 8 a.m. Thursday, the storm was about 40 miles east of Orlando carrying maximum sustained winds of 65 mph and moving northeast at 8 mph, according to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center.