Indiana Task Force 1 members home after tackling hurricane during pandemic

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Members of Indiana Task Force 1 are home after a week of disaster relief efforts in Louisiana during the aftermath of Hurricane Laura.

Members of Indiana Task Force 1 have been to 20 to 30 hurricanes, but never during a global pandemic.

Indiana Task Force 1 members pulled up to their Indianapolis headquarters Wednesday and unloaded their bus as quick as they could, happy to be back home.

“I’m sure the guys are ready to get home and see their families and get in their own beds for the evening,” said Gerald George, Task Force 1 leader.

That’s something many can’t do this week as countless Louisiana homes sit underwater or in piles of rubble, caving in from debris that Hurricane Laura left behind.

Members of the task force witnessed some of that devastation firsthand in Vernon Parish, Louisiana.

“We saw an airport down there where the hangars were just ripped apart and large giant jumbo jets wrapped up in sheet metal,” Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Incident Support Team Public Information Officer Michael Pruitt said.

Indiana Task Force 1 compares Hurricane Laura to the damage from Hurricane Michael in 2018, but a big difference from that hurricane is the added challenge of helping people during a pandemic.

“We saw people trying to do their best down there to practice social distancing and wearing the masks,” Pruitt said. “But obviously it was not the first thing on their minds. Many people lost so much of their own personal property and were struggling. So I don’t think they were concerned as much about the coronavirus as we were.”

They say, thankfully, they haven’t heard any reports of disaster relief teams testing positive for the virus. If they did, relief for Hurricane Laura and any possible future disasters could be greatly impacted.

“The last thing we would want to do is for our teams to get ill,” Pruitt said. “Because if you take our teams out of the system, we’ve lost all our rescue resources.”

They say that’s why, especially now, it’s important to be prepared for anything, because who knows what 2020 will throw next.

“We are not out of severe weather time here in Indiana or we could have earthquakes,” Pruitt said. “There are many types of hazards that we’re not used to dealing with in Indiana that could come along and we should always be prepared.”

Indiana Task Force 1 may be back home, but they say hurricane season is still ongoing, so they’re prepared to ship out again if another disaster strikes.