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As Hurricane Ian approaches, Ohio Task Force One is in Florida to assist with rescue and recovery effort

 These vehicles are part of Ohio Task Force One, the group that is assisting rescue and recovery efforts in Florida
Ohio Task Force One
These vehicles are part of Ohio Task Force One, the group that is assisting rescue and recovery efforts in Florida

As many on the west coast of Florida head north and inland to escape Hurricane Ian, 47 members of Ohio Task Force One are in Florida right now, getting ready to assist with search and rescue units.

Jack Reall, the commander of Ohio Task Force One, a group of first responders who serve to assist Ohio and other states when they are dealing with disasters, said his crew is in Florida now, waiting for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to give the go-ahead to help.

“We primarily are dealing with the initial response, the emergency part of the event," Reall said.

Reall said the members of the task force will assist other local, state, and federal crews with search, rescue, and recovery from the damage expected to occur from the surge caused by the hurricane.

"That storm could surge and would usually damage a lot of the light-framed and even some of the heavier-framed buildings on the coast. So we are looking at building collapses, possibly rescuing people from those," Reall said.

He added, "We've got a lot of rain coming in and, the way Florida is, we will get a lot of draining and swift water events. So we are looking at probably some boat-based rescues and removal of people who are trapped by flood waters. And then we will probably do quite a bit of surveys and assessments of different areas for the local community so that they can make sure that, you know, so that kind of that whole area can be cleared of somebody who might be missing, trapped or in need of assistance."

Reall said after first responders deal with life-threatening situations, other charitable organizations will follow behind and deal with damage created by the hurricane in hard-hit communities. Reall said many of the members have assisted in other hurricanes, tornadoes, and flooding situations in various states in the past.

The American Red Cross is poised to go into hard-hit areas to help those who have been displaced by the hurricane. Other faith-based groups will also help with the food, clothing, and shelter needs.

There is already flooding in many parts of the Florida coast right now. Wind gusts of 200 miles per hour are expected later Wednesday when the hurricane actually hits the coast.

At this point, Hurricane Ian is on track to hit the western coast of Florida around the Fort Myers and Tampa area then it is expected to weaken a bit and head across the state. Weather forecasters think it will then head up the eastern coast of Georgia, into South Carolina and North Carolina.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.