- October 20, 2016
Local Central Florida residents packed up and headed to Louisiana on Monday, Aug. 30 in order to help with recovery in the wake of Hurricane Ida.
Hurricane Ida, registered as one of the strongest storms to ever hit the United States, came crashing into New Orleans on Sunday, Aug. 29, leaving disaster in its' wake.
New Orleans lost all power as the Category 4 storm proceeded to blow roofs off buildings and reversed the flow of the Mississippi River causing massive flooding.
On Monday, several Orlando groups including the Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 4 headed to Louisiana to offer assistance. According to Battalion Chief Garrett Wienckowski, the team will meet with officials in Baton Rouge who will determine where the group can best be utilized during rescue and recovery efforts.
"Right now we have to prepare for conditions such as heavy flooding and no power in the area and do what we can to help," Wienckowski said.
Wienckowski has been part of the special task force for almost 19 years and said he joined in 2003. He said that he covers a mass portion of the Orlando area, including calls to the Winter Garden area.
The USAR Task Force 4 is made up of 45 people including members of the Orlando Fire Department, Orange County Fire Rescue and Seminole County Fire Department as well as members from Clermont Fire Department, Osceola County Fire Rescue, Kissimmee Fire Department and the Melbourne Fire Department.
On Monday morning during a press conference, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings wished the team luck and also noted that Hurricane Ida struck Louisiana on the 16th anniversary of when Hurricane Katrina devastated the state.
“I saw the devastation of Hurricane Katrina firsthand and I know it is a significant event for those who live in the area. So when our personnel deploy into that area, know they are indeed going into harm’s way,” Demings said. “Godspeed as they help hurricane-stricken residents recover from this historic storm.”
Since its founding, the task force has been deployed to more than 10 natural and man-made disasters within Florida, Louisiana and Texas.
Duke Energy Florida Strike Teams also deployed on Sunday morning in order to assist with power restoration following the impact of the hurricane.
The company has more than 150 Duke Energy and contract resources responding from across the state including lineman, vegetation management crews and damage assessors.
Ana Gibbs, a member of Duke Energy communications, said that the members deployed included two line workers from Winter Garden. She said that the residents spent Sunday night in Tallahassee and traveled Monday to reach Louisiana.
"One of the companies the team will be assisting is Entergy Louisiana," Gibbs said. "According to the outage map they are experiencing more than 745,000 outages at this time."
The hurricane has currently left one dead with many injured and hundreds without power.