The Florida National Guard has rescued more than 113 Floridians in the 24 hours since Hurricane Sally made landfall over the Gulf Coast.
As of Thursday, roughly 500 Soldiers and Airmen have responded to the area to support the local rescue efforts. Their missions include aerial search and rescue, food and water distribution, shelter support, and route clearance.
Hurricane Sally made landfall over the Gulf Coast early Wednesday as a Category 2 storm. The storm left “catastrophic and life-threatening” flooding in its wake.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, on Wednesday, cited flooding and power outages as his top two recovery priorities. He encouraged panhandle residents to “buckle up” over the coming days.
“The most import thing we want people to do is stay vigilant,” he said at a State Emergency Operations Center press conference. “Listen to your local officials and be cognizant of the risks that the water poses right now.”
The 500 guardsmen and women are working alongside local authorities and at least four state Urban Search and Rescue teams mobilized by Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis. Patronis said in a news release the teams specialize in several areas including water search and rescue, emergency medical care, damage assessment and hazardous material evaluation.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Wednesday also mobilized a 36-person Florida Forest Service team to support the urban search and rescue operation. The 36-person team will work in coordination with the Fire Marshal’s Office.
“We are continuing to work with state and local partners to help keep everyone in Sally’s path safe throughout this disaster,” Fried said in the announcement.
State and local authorities began limited rescue missions in the region early Wednesday during the storm. Most rescue efforts and aircraft missions, however, were constricted by the severe weather. In all, more than 600 rescue mission were performed by Wednesday evening.
DeSantis traveled to the region Thursday and is expected to hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m.