Hurricane

Manatee County deploying personnel to assist Panhandle in wake of Hurricane Michael

Manatee County EMS, along with Collier County EMS, deployed to Ocala at the State Fire College on Wednesday evening for staging. They were expected to receive orders Thursday to a destination in Northwest Florida.
Manatee County EMS, along with Collier County EMS, deployed to Ocala at the State Fire College on Wednesday evening for staging. They were expected to receive orders Thursday to a destination in Northwest Florida. Manatee County EMS Facebook

Hurricane Michael devastated cities along the Florida Panhandle when it made landfall as a strong Category 4 storm Wednesday afternoon, and Manatee County personnel are on their way to provide assistance to the communities impacted by the damage.

Interim chief of Manatee County Emergency Management Steve Litschauer said there are several “deployable assets,” that could and have been sent around the state, including himself. He likely will be sent to the state Emergency Operations Center on Friday. Robert Smith, director of Manatee County Department of Public Safety, also could be sent to the Panhandle.

Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle as a powerful Category 4 storm with sustained winds around 155 mph. Tropical storm force winds are likely in Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia.

Though it’s “obviously” taxing work on everyone involved, Litschauer says there are many reasons to send people to the hardest-hit areas.

“You go for several reasons. One, obviously, to help those in need, and second is to learn. And to learn either by what was done right or what was done wrong,” Litschauer said. “Either way, you bring that life experience back to Manatee County.”

He added that he hopes by sending personnel to other parts of the state in their times of need, “They will be the first to help us” if Manatee County is ever faced with the same needs.

Manatee and Collier County EMS personnel deployed to Ocala for staging Wednesday night and were expected to receive their assignments Thursday.

The Manatee County Engine Strike Team and a Light Technical Rescue team with about two dozen crew members from East, West and Southern Manatee, North River, Cedar Hammock and City of Bradenton fire departments were sent to Tallahassee.

Litschauer said they also were sending two dispatchers form the Emergency Communications Center to Bay County.

Randy Warren, spokesman for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, said they have 10 deputies and three supervisors as part of their Emergency Response Team ready to be deployed once they are told where to report.

Florida Highway Patrol sent more than 600 Quick Response Force troopers from across the state to assist with relief efforts in the Panhandle. Thirty-five of those troopers were from Southwest Florida counties.

Florida Power and Light has more than 1,350 employees and contractors ready to restore power to customers affected by the storm. Some deployed from Sarasota.

Winds howl as Hurricane Michael make landfall east of Panama City Beach on Oct. 10, 2018.

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