Local first responders prepare to assist in Hurricane Florence relief

It’s a race against time for millions of people as Hurricane Florence approaches the East Coast.

As millions of people evacuate, many first responders in the Tri-Cities are preparing to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.

Chief Dan Wheely with the Washington County/Johnson City Emergency Management Services said three people were sent to Myrtle Beach Monday night to evacuate nursing homes and hospitals before Florence makes landfall.

“It affects the hospital, they lose power, a lot equipment,” Wheely said. “Even the nursing homes, assisted living, things like that are really affected because a lot of people need continuous power and continuous care.”

While some Tri-Cities disaster relief teams have already left, others are preparing to be on the ground to help once Florence hits.

Jim Ramey, disaster relief director for the Sullivan Baptist Association, said his team of 30 volunteers will head out Sunday morning.

“What they’ve asked us to do is to have 20,000 meals ready Tuesday,” Ramey said. “We will be setting up a feeding kitchen, much like what the Army uses under tents out in the field. We can do 40,000 to 45,000 a day.”

With four trucks and three vans, he said his team is ready to feed as many people as they need to.

Other Tri-Cities organizations and agencies are preparing to deploy, if more help is needed.

Barry Brickey with the Kingsport Fire Department said they are on standby in case a swift water rescue team is needed.

“We would go to South Carolina if we were activated, and they would stage us in certain areas and find out where the demand is,” Brickey said. “Then they would assign us an area to go and search.”

Executive Director Kalen Collins of the American Red Cross of Northeast Tennessee says they are also on standby to send one of the their emergency vehicles. She said they will also open a shelter in Kingsport for evacuees, if needed.

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