FLORIDA — It’s been a little over a week since Hurricane Michael made land fall in Florida and agencies are continuing to provide relief efforts. Two of those agencies, made up of 16 people are from the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office.
Les Hallman, a chief assistant for Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue, was sent to Florida nine days ago to help with the relief efforts. He landed in Jacksonville, Florida on Wednesday the 10th, the day Hurricane Michael made land fall. He and his team drove seven hours to Mexico Beach, one of the places hit hardest by the hurricane.
“Mexico beach was decimated, very, very heavy damage, a lot worse than what I saw of Hurricane Katrina.” Hallman said. “I responded to base Saint Louis and was deployed there for hurricane Katrina… the damage I’m seeing here is much worse than I saw in Katrina.”
When Hallman and his team arrived in Mexico Beach, their first mission was to start search and rescue operations.
“For our side of Mexico Beach we utilized one rural team and two state teams to start immediate search and rescue of the impacted area.” Hallman said. “We were actually in search and rescue mode until yesterday, I’m sad to report that our teams did find some victims but they also did a lot of saves.”
His team completed their search and rescue mission just a little over a week after they had arrived there. Now, their job is to transition into the recovery process.
Hallman’s team will be headed home once they’ve been out there for fourteen days. A new team will be taking over the recovery operations by helping people into shelters and their homes, as well as working on putting back together the damaged areas.
Blakely McHugh is a weather forecaster and reporter for NBC5 News. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Blakely is a native of San Diego, CA.
Blakely is excited to be in southern Oregon, a place that gets all the seasons and has similar temperatures to Arizona in the summer! When she’s not at work, you can find her relaxing at home watching TV and cuddling with her cat, Dallas. She also enjoys trying new places to eat and exploring the outdoors.
Blakely loves meeting new people so if you see her out and about, say “Hi!”