US services ready for Storm Michael response

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A member of Florida National Guard CBRN Enhanced Response Force Package readies for storm response. Credit: US National Guard

Services from the US have been scrambled to help with the response to Storm Michael, which has hit the states of Florida, Alabama and Georgia.

The third-strongest storm in recorded history to hit the US mainland, Storm Michael has brought winds of up to 115 mph (250 km/h). Around 500,000 residents have been left without electricity, and as of 11 October, it has killed two US citizens and a further 13 when it passed through Central America.

The US Department of Defense announced on 10 October that it is ‘surrounding the storm with military capability that we can surge forward in support of the [Federal Emergency Management Agency], state, and local officials’.

According to Gen Terrence O'Shaughnessy, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and US Northern Command, the Defense Department has 2,216 active-duty personnel, 32 helicopters, 240 high-water vehicles and 32 swift-water boats ready to carry out a swift search and rescue response to the storm.

Military bases around the country have committed troops to the operation, including: Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield near Savannah, Georgia, which has 35 rotary-wing aircraft and 80 high-water vehicles ready; Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, has two pararescue teams supported by aircraft capable of mid-air refuelling; critical supplies, commodities and high-water vehicles at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, North Auxiliary Airfield in South Carolina, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and 15 National Guard helicopters arriving from different states to support Florida.

The US Coast Guard is also providing assistance with fixed-wing and rotor-wing on standby. The service has already made several rescues, including saving two sailors whose 50-ft sailing yacht ran into trouble near Fort Myers, Florida.

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