Florida responders, volunteers head home to prepare for Irma
By Dave Rogers / For The Record
You couldn’t hardly go anywhere in Orange County the past few days – when you could go anywhere in Orange County – without encountering a storm helper from Florida.
More than 400 volunteers came from Florida to help with the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey, folks from organizations like the Salvation Army, Southern Baptist Convention, Red Cross and Feeding Florida.
And that doesn’t count the 125 game wardens from the Florida Wildlife Commission, many of whom had been bunking near the county’s Emergency Operations Center on FM 1442.
But starting Tuesday, they were heading their trucks and RVs home in a hurry.
News that Hurricane Irma, a Major Category 5 storm, was bearing down on south Florida sent them racing home.
“We’ve been here since Sunday and we were supposed to stay until Saturday. But we have to go home and take care of our loved ones,” said Al Magdalen of Fort Lauderdale.
Magdalen was here with Alison Thompson of Miami assisting with animal rescues. They were planning to head home Wednesday morning, but not making one more rescue and plucking 30 cats from the waterlogged home of a local woman.
“We will be fine,” County Commissioner Barry Burton said, speaking of the police, fire and rescue specialists and military units that coordinate efforts through the county.
He noted it is standard during a disaster of Harvey’s magnitude to have first responders from distant cities cycle in and out to relieve overworked locals during a long-term event.
“They are leaving on a regular schedule,” he said.
And it isn’t just Floridians that are hitting the road.
Disaster specialists from all over the country will rush to Florida, just like they did to Rockport or Houston before encamping at Beaumont or Orange.
The Cajun Gravy, a non-profit group of volunteers from Louisiana left Orange Tuesday to resupply and head to Irma.
While they were here, they cooked and served over 18,600 hot meals over the past week for all the first responders.
The Florida Wildlife Commission, which brought along about 50 boats, 17 high water vehicles and two mobile command centers, was credited with saving at least 500 Southeast Texans.
Then Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered them to come home and take care of their own.
Wednesday, the National Weather Service reported Irma is projected to be a threat to Florida later this weekend into early next week.
The sharp turn to the north is due to an upper level trough of low pressure in the east central U.S. that will erode the Bermuda high pressure that is currently steering Irma to the west-northwest.