In the wake of widespread devastation left behind after Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida Panhandle, members of the Florida National Guard’s Enhanced Response Team have continued to scour the battered terrain of Bay County and Gulf County, looking for those who are in dire need of assistance.
Guardsmen from all over the Sunshine State have been dispatched to the disaster area, including Sergeant First Class Alden C. Morrow, the non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the FLNG Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High Yield Explosive (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package (C-ERFP).
“Our mission is important,” he said in an interview with the 107th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. “If we don’t go do it, who else will go do it? Who better to go do it than the Florida National Guard for the citizens of Florida?”
Morrow’s team -and many like them- have been working around the clock to ensure that citizens affected by the hurricane’s devastation receive the help they need.
In many counties along the Florida Panhandle, many residents are without running water or electricity, and much of the road system has been rendered impassable by downed trees and power lines.
With some citizens effectively confined to their own property, the Army National Guard has been bringing the relief to them as they continue to try and put their lives back together.
“We have come across over fifty victims that have been trapped in one way, shape or another, that really needed attention [and] medical help,” Morrow said. “Fortunately, we were able to get to them in time and get them the help they needed.”
Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle as a strong Category 4 hurricane on October 10, with winds and pressures just below Category 5 intensity. During it’s initial onslaught, the storm went down in US history as the third-most pressure-intense Atlantic hurricane to make landfall.
Winds of around 155 MPH all but destroyed cities such as Mexico Beach and Panama City, disrupting infrastructure and leading to looting and general lawlessness in the initial days after the storm.
According to the Pensacola News Journal, by the time the hurricane downgraded to a tropical storm and made it’s way northeast, the storm had officially claimed 22 victims in Florida, with 10 additional victims claimed as it passed through Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina. The casualties are expected to rise as Search and Rescue operations continue.
Many areas are still impassable, forcing rescue crews to improvise as they search for both survivors and the remains of those who were not as lucky.
For Morrow and his team, it’s a mission that isn’t to be taken lightly.
“When my team members come in at night and tell me the things they saw during the day, they’re emotionally affected by it, but it gives them the drive to go out and do it the next day,” Morrow said.
Regardless of the devastation, the Florida Army and Air National Guard continue to perform the mission, knowing that the people of Florida depend on them.
“This is by far the most catastrophic [storm] that we have been to, and everyone on this team, they’re here for the duration,” Morrow said. “They’re here as long as it takes to get the job done and make sure that every one of these citizens have been touched, and know that we’re here to help them…And we don’t leave anyone trapped.”
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