Two urban search and rescue teams will deploy to the Florida panhandle Thursday in response to Hurricane Sally, Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis announced Tuesday.
The two teams, staffed roughly by 100 fire service members, will provide lifesaving services and equipment to the area. Their capabilities, among others, include search and rescue, emergency medical care, and damage reconnaissance.
The teams, which also possess swift-water capabilities, can coordinate operations with the Florida National Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
“With Hurricane Sally bringing massive storm surge and flooding to parts of the Panhandle this week, we have mobilized Florida’s Urban Search & Rescue Task Forces 3 and 5 in support of the recovery efforts following this storm,” Patronis said. “These dedicated and highly trained first responders will bring lifesaving equipment and resources to support these communities following what is likely to be a large-scale flooding event.”
As of 11 a.m., Hurricane Sally is roughly 55 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River and shifting northwest at 2 mph. The National Hurricane Center warned its slow speed might produce “historic flooding” and “extreme life-threatening” flash floods.
Storm watchers expect the Category 1 storm to make landfall over southeastern Louisiana late Tuesday or early Wednesday. The National Hurricane Center forecast Sally’s maximum sustained winds are near 85 mph with higher gusts. Moreover, those winds extend up to 45 miles from the center with tropical-storm-force winds extend up to 125 miles.
“Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,” the NHC advised.
Patronis added a third team in Tallahassee is also on standby for possible deployment if necessary.
“I’m encouraging all Floridians to take this storm seriously, heed all advisories and take the necessary precautions to remain safe immediately,” Patronis concluded. “Visit PrepareFL.com for disaster preparedness information and tips to help ensure you, your family, and your home are prepared.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday ordered a state of emergency for Escambia and Santa Rosa County.