INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Hoosiers answered the call for help Tuesday evening as Hurricane Laura took aim at the Gulf Coast.
Indiana Task Force 1 received notice of activation at 2:30 p.m. Within about five hours, they were already several hours on the road.
Task Force 1 is a specialized search and rescue unit.
“To us, it’s another 911 response, but we’re trying to get ahead of the curve,” said Gerald George, who is leading the team this time.
Hurricane Laura is forecasted to be a Category 3 storm with winds up to 115 mph when it hits land in Texas and Louisiana.
First responders like George left their day job to serve elsewhere. It’s not easy, even for veterans.
“It’s tough,” George said. “I had to get home work and check on my bag, make sure I had everything in there. Of course, I forgot something on the way so my wife had to rush back.”
While the group sometimes brings up to 80 people, this group is smaller, with just 25.
It’s based on what the FEMA officials down there think they’ll need.
While the activation is immediate, it’s no surprise. Cmdr. Tom Neal said it’s most typically done because of weather events in the last two weeks of August.
The last deployment was almost a year ago for Hurricane Dorian.
“When you see storms popping up in the Atlantic and coming off the coast of Africa, we pretty much turn on the Weather Channel in the office and we stay abreast of the changes that are occurring with each of the storms,” Neal said.
Task Force 1 is taking enough to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours, probably even another day or two. They are also trying to leave some things back in Indiana so they can more quickly tear down and move elsewhere if needed.
No one knows when they will return. Usually it’s 14 days, though sometimes it’s more. They hope it’s fewer.
In fact, everyone hopes this turns out to be a long road trip where all the equipment stays on the trucks.
“We hope to not have to use it, but we’re there if we have to use it, and everyone is trained and ready to go,” George said.
Task Force 1 hopes to arrive in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, around noon Wednesday. That’s about an hour inland.
They will wait there until local resources ask for help. But, along with everything, it’s subject to change.