Hurricane Ian sidelines first responders in parts of Florida

Hurricane Ian

(NewsNation) — In regions of Florida where Hurricane Ian is unleashing the brunt of its destruction through 150 mph winds and storm surges more than 10 feet high, emergency response crews are asking those calling 911 to be patient.

In places where torrential winds are still blowing at over 45 mph, first responder crews are unable to rescue people and those in need are being told to wait until it is safe enough for emergency crews to venture outside.

“At this point, it is simply unsafe for emergency personnel to venture out there. We have to wait until that 45 mph wind marker is under that for our teams to go out there,” said Jamie Carson, the communications director for Sarasota County. “They’re poised and ready and as soon as that happens, we’re out there and we will be assisting the community.”

Carson said Sarasota’s 911 dispatch has been “inundated” with calls and they are asking everyone to “be patient” as they wait for the storm to calm so emergency crews can activate.

Some emergency response crews do not anticipate they will be able to go out on rescue missions until early Thursday morning as the storm continues to surge across the state.

“At this point, there is nothing we can do except ride it out and be prepared as soon as we can go back out,” said Cape Coral, Fla. Fire Chief Ryan Lamb. “Current projections are somewhere around early tomorrow morning, 5 a.m. or so. If we can get out there sooner, based on sustained wind being less than 45 mph and those waters going down, we’ll be out there as quick as we can.”

Emergency crews in Florida that have been active are encountering harrowing conditions and hazards while responding to 911 calls.

Rob Herrin, the public information officer for the Hillsborough County Fire and Rescue Department, said that as of around 7 p.m. EST, crews were still able to respond to 911 calls, but the time allowable for them to do that was quickly dwindling.

“I can tell you firsthand our crews are experiencing response difficulties,” Herrin said. “There’s been some structure fires we’ve been going to that we had to divert around trees down, power lines in the way.”

AJ Fraser of PANSOC search and rescue, a volunteer rescue team, said his crew was preparing for all possibilities when it eventually ventures to inland Florida to conduct river and flood water rescues.

His crew brought 7-foot inflatable boats rigged with 25 horsepower motors, scuba gear, chain saws, axes and even battering rams in the event someone is pinned in their home or vehicle.

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