Oklahoma firefighter crews aid in Hurricane Florence relief effort
A crew of two dozen Oklahomans arrived in North Carolina early Sunday to help with rescues following Hurricane Florence.
While they have not participated in any emergency rescues, they have talked to about 100 people who decided to weather the storm in their homes, Oklahoma City fire District Chief Brad Smith said.
"We're just doing focused searches on areas inundated with water," Smith said. "Basically, that means we're going door to door and evacuating people if we need to."
The Oklahoma Task Force 1 Swift Water Rescue Team and the Helicopter Search and Rescue Team are stationed in Robeson County, in the south-central part of the state, and responsible for water rescues in the cities of Pembroke and Lumberton.
They arrived about 2 a.m. Sunday, though the last 10 miles took them about two hours to cover due to the high waters.
Eleven firefighters and two police officers from Oklahoma City are there, as well as five from the Coal County search and rescue team. Edmond and Moore sent two firefighters each. One firefighter each from the Chickasha and Norman fire departments also joined the task force.
By Monday afternoon, the storm had passed, and Smith reported sunny skies with temperatures nearing 90 degrees. Standing water was up to 5 feet deep in places, but the next two days could be a lot less calm, he said.
"It's raining to the west of us up in the mountains, so the water is going to move downhill. We're going to be seeing that water over the next couple days," Smith said.
The nearby Lumber River already has exceeded its record for height and flow, one set two years ago by Hurricane Matthew, he said.
The crews have been suspending their searches about 7 each night, and resuming by 8 a.m. the following day. Smith said about 50 to 75 percent of the homes are empty.
He said they have no idea when they'll be headed back to Oklahoma.
"We're going to continue to be doing the things we're doing," Smith said. "It's kind of a play-it-by-ear deal."