NJ task force ready to help as monster Hurricane Laura hits Gulf
Once again, New Jersey is ready to lend a hand.
The state's 80-member Task Force 1 was dispatched to the Gulf region early Thursday morning as Hurricane Laura , with 150 mph winds, made landfall near the Louisiana-Texas border.
A convoy of five F-450 pickups, two crew carriers, an F-250 towing vehicle, two passenger vans, two utility terrain vehicles, and a fleet service truck left Wall about 1 a.m. headed for a staging area near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a location that could change between now and their arrival in the Gulf region.
They were deployed as members of the National Urban Search & Rescue Response System to assist with the rescue and recovery efforts.
The Category 4 storm swamped a low-lying coastal area with ocean water that forecasters said could be 20 feet deep and unsurvivable. Authorities had ordered more than 580,000 coastal residents to evacuate, but not everyone did.
The team is made up of fire, police, medical, engineering and communications volunteers from 21 counties.
The Task Force is divided into three groups, with one group always remaining behind in New Jersey to handle any other emergencies that may arise. It was last deployed nationally to Florida for Hurricane Dorian last year.
Six members of the New Jersey American Red Cross chapter are also headed to the Gulf to assist with shelters with more ready to go if needed, according to Red Cross spokeswoman Diane Concannon.
"We're going to hunker down until the storm is over. There's a number of evacuation shelters the Red Cross is setting up out there. I'm going to be supervising one of the shelters," Red Cross volunteer John Loyer said.
The remnants of Laura will swing through New Jersey on Saturday, likely classified as a Post-Tropical Depression at that point, according to New Jersey 101.5 chief meteorologist Dan Zarrow.
"Most of Saturday's forecast reads like a rainy, windy day. Rainfall totals over an inch and wind gusts over 30 mph are possible. Strong to severe thunderstorms are also possible," Zarrow said.
(Includes material copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)