VANDALIA, Ohio (WDTN)– Ohio Task Force 1 sent two teams to Florida to help with search and rescue operations after the devastation of Hurricane Ian, and now they are both home.
They spent two weeks conducting rescue missions and wide area searches in Fort Myers, one of the area’s hardest hit by the massive storm.
“There’s definitely a little bit of guilt coming back and sleeping in a bed tonight knowing there’s a half a million people sleeping somewhere else,” said Task Force Leader Jack Reall.
Ohio Task Force 1 says their latest deployment to Fort Myers, Florida is heavy on their hearts. Hurricane Ian devastated many communities and left behind little for families to hold on to.
“We never really want to be deployed because that’s the worst day for many people if we actually show up,” said K9 Manager Melissa Morgan. “This is going to be a long road of recovery for many because this is a great deal of damage.”
84 members of Ohio Task Force 1 arrived home Monday, including seven search and rescue k9’s. They searched over 8,700 structures, helped more than 200 people, evacuated 42 residents and saved 14 pets. Team Members say a huge accomplishment was also their water search and rescue team, covering many wide area searches that spanned 106 miles of water.
K9 Manager Melissa Morgan says her team recovered one body, hoping to turn tragedy into answers.
“It’s absolutely sad but it’s absolutely important to the families that we brought closure to them so they’re not wondering,” said Morgan. “Unfortunately, there’s still families who are wondering because there’s still a lot of people missing down there.”
Reall says through his years with Ohio Task Force 1, Fort Myers deployment is one that’s difficult to process.
“There’s nothing left and you look at the before and after pictures and its amazing, those are people’s homes, jobs, livelihood and that’s the kind of stuff those are things you can’t describe, even in pictures, it’s unbelievable,” said Reall.
This deployment to Fort Myers marks Ohio Task Force 1’s fifth deployment in 15 months. There are a total of 28 FEMA teams across the country including Ohio’s.