The St. Francois County Ambulance District's Hurricane Irma relief crew has moved down to a new staging area in Orlando. 

At about 8 p.m. Saturday the ambulance district received a request from FEMA to send three ambulances and one support vehicle for Hurricane Irma relief efforts. 

District Administrator David Tetrault, supervisors TJ Isgrig and Mike Dodson, and paramedics Lewis Miller, Jorden Flieg, Jessica Watkins and Kevin Jones first reported to Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. 

On Monday evening they were given new orders and began their journey down to Orlando as part of Strike Team 41.

Tetrault is the leader of the team which consists of nine ambulances including three from St. Francois County and one of their support vehicles, as well as some from Texas, southern and northern Illinois, and Louisiana.  

They reached their new staging area late Monday night driving through what was left of Irma to get there.

Tetrault said that some of the exits off highway 1-75 south were closed due to flooding and that as they continued to travel south the damage seemed to get worse. The highway was cleared of debris to allow emergency services to make it through.

“Restaurants and gas stations were all packed as we drove past them and power appears to be out everywhere we go,” Tetrault said. “Cellphone signal was spotty and sometimes unavailable.”

He said they will most likely lose cell signal the further south they move making them unavailable for updates.

“These events and experiences are going to help better prepare us,” Tetrault said. “We are not only helping out another state, but this will have a positive impact on our own community as well.”

Now that they are in Orlando they will be assigned an area to assist. 

The crew has experienced some very long days including a total of 16 hours driving and sleeping in a room with more than 800 of their fellow first responders. Yet they all still appear to have smiles on their faces and are ready to help. 

“It is due to the support of our board and medical director that allows us to do this type of work for all of our communities in need,” Tetrault said. “We know if a crisis hits home our colleagues in emergency medical services with ambulances will be there for us.”

“This has been the third time we have been deployed to assist in other disasters in the country,” Terault said. “We are honored and willing to assist.”

Tetrault said the board of directors makes sure that they are able to help but yet still make sure the community is covered at home.

According to the Associated Press, Irma made landfall just after 9 a.m. Sunday at Cudjoe Key, about 20 miles outside Key West. 

Irma arrived as a Category 4 hurricane but by late afternoon had weakened to a Category 2 with 110 mph winds. A storm surge of over 10 feet was recorded in the Keys, and forecasters warned some places on the mainland could get up to 15 feet of water.

Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at vkemper@democratnewsonline.com.

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