As residents in Florida and neighboring areas prepare to flee Hurricane Irma, volunteers and first responders are heading toward the coming storm.
This comes just days after some of them wrapped up search and rescue work during Hurricane Harvey in Texas, which killed at least 60 people and left thousands more homeless.
More than 40 members of the Pennsylvania Task Force 1 (PA-TF1), including 18 Philadelphia firefighters, are among those racing to help evacuees. They left Wednesday for Alabama, where the team will connect with members who were recently deployed to Texas. In total, 80 members of the task force will join FEMA’s Urban Search and Rescue crews in Florida.
"We don’t have a clear picture of where Irma will hit the United States, but from Alabama, they’ll be able to quickly report to wherever help is needed," Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said.
Montgomery County-based Danella Power Services, a private construction company that helps the utility industry restore gas, electric, communications and water services, is also sending crews to Florida.
More than 100 linemen will leave Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, Wednesday evening to provide backup support for the Florida Power and Light Company, which anticipates power outages for millions of residents.
Meanwhile, travelers are making an anxious return to safer ground. At the Philadelphia International Airport, one family fled their current home in Florida’s Space Coast to seek shelter at their relatives’ house in Hatboro, Pennsylvania,
“Being pregnant, I can’t risk being there,” Alexa Feys said. “I have two friends who are about to go into labor and they’re staying. The hospitals might be safe, but how am I going to get to the hospital?”
Her mother, Aundrea Myers, urged all residents to evacuate as soon as possible. She abandoned her own house in Melbourne, Florida, which was scheduled to sell next week. The paperwork, however, was not signed before she left.
“I watched the flights. They’re all selling out,” she said.
Meanwhile, some members of the Delaware National Guard sent to Texas to assist with Harvey relief efforts have returned.
The guard said in a news release Tuesday that the C-130 aircraft and flight crew that were dispatched Aug. 29 returned over the weekend.
The release says missions included transporting 31 emergency aid personnel, more than 24 tons of cargo and evacuating 214 people to safety.
About 30 Delaware National Guard troops were still deployed Wednesday to assist with the effort. One team in Fort Worth, Texas assisted with medical support missions. Other soldiers and airmen helped staff the National Guard Bureau's Operations Center near Washington, D.C.