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Area emergency responders head for coast to offer hurricane aid
DOT crews standing by if needed for storm cleanup efforts
BC-AP News Digest 2 pm-IMG-jpg
Surf from the Banana River crashes up on a dock at Sunset Grill in Cocoa Beach, Fla., as Hurricane Matthew hits Florida’s east coast, Friday.

The Georgia Search and Rescue Task Force, including 13 members of the Gainesville Fire Department and eight from Hall County Fire Services, were on the road to Perry on Friday afternoon to help with any needs from Hurricane Matthew.

Keith Smith, with the Gainesville Fire Department, said where and how long the group might be needed is “completely up to the hurricane.”

The group was traveling with a Georgia State Patrol escort. It included the task force truck, a tractor trailer with a wide variety of equipment.

The Category 3 storm is off the Atlantic coast lashing northern Florida and headed toward a possible landfall on the Georgia seashore.

Hall County Fire Chief Jeff Hood said the staff members "will join approximately 25 other fire services personnel from elsewhere in the state to provide technical rescues for structural collapses, inside confined spaces or trenches and rope rescues as needed.”

Smith said the task force included staff members from Athens-Clarke County, Jefferson, Barrow, White and Habersham counties.

He said the crew is trained in nearly all types of search-and-rescue efforts and prepared for structural searches and confined space work.

“We really don’t know what we’ll be doing when we get there,” he said.

Kit Dunlap, president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said “a few” people who had left the coast area had visited the chamber looking for attractions and things to do. The Holiday Inn in Gainesville reported having a small number of evacuees who stayed only Tuesday night.

Hood said one advanced life support ambulance and two additional staff members also are being deployed as a part of a task force through the Georgia Mutual Aid Group to replace depleted or destroyed resources along the coast.

If needed, Hall County also will take the mobile hospital assigned to the North Georgia region to South Georgia.

Maintenance crews at the northeast district office for Georgia Department of Transportation are on standby if needed. A caravan of loaders, trailers and equipment operators will be notified by 7 a.m. Saturday if they are needed in the cleanup and relief efforts.

More than 60 District One maintenance workers are prepared to stay to help out for five days. A second team could be dispatched Sunday for additional support.

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