Central Texas rescue team heads to Florida in hurricane’s aftermath

(Texas Task Force 1 photo)

(KWTX) A Central Texas rescue team is joining the search for the missing in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.

Texas Task Force 1 headed from its headquarters in College Station to Florida on Tuesday before Hurricane Michael made landfall.

Eighty members of the search and rescue team were deployed by FEMA along with five coordinators who will help organize teams coming from across the nation.

On Wednesday, rescuers were staged just outside of the storm’s strike zone in Alabama.

Team members say from that direction on the west side of the storm, they can move in quickly behind it and start assisting local first responders.

"As soon as the storm passes and it's safe, they'll immediately go in to those coastal regions which were directly affected by the sea surge and the high winds and rain,” said Task Force public information officer Stephen Bjune.

“They will also continue to work as the storm moves through the panhandle of Florida, Georgia and then the recently affected North and South Carolina, until the storm goes back out into the Atlantic Ocean."

Once they’re clear to move, the team, which is supported by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, will start going into areas to conduct welfare checks, locate missing people and rescue anyone who may be stranded.

The groups are made up of firefighters, doctors, police officers, and many other professionals.

Members spend a cumulative 28,000 hours a year training for severe weather responses like this one.

"That's canine doing training and rubble piles and collapsed structures,” says Bjune.

“That's rescue teams working on how to get to breaching and breaking heavy objects to be able to reach people in distress; it’s also search teams and hazmat teams that work to be able to make sure the area is safe and go to find those people that might be entrapped or difficult to locate."

Rescuers are prepared to spend at least two weeks helping out in the hurricane hit areas.

The number of rescuers sent to Florida is similar to the task force’s response to Hurricane Florence in September.

They expect to return to the Carolinas after the storm passes and will stay until it is no longer a threat to the area.

They also have five water rescue squads and helicopter search teams near Junction in West Texas after flash floods hit the area Sunday.

Four people who were swept away when floods swamped an RV park are still missing there.