TAYLOR COUNTY, FLORIDA — As search and rescue missions continue in areas hardest hit by Hurricane Idalia, Florida CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis urges local residents to be patient.
Multiple counties along Florida’s west coast, from Pinellas up to Taylor County, were affected by significant storm surge.
A FOCUS ON BIG BEND
“Urban search and rescue teams have completed initial searches across hundreds of miles of coastline to verify that people in affected areas are safe and secure,” Patronis told The Florida Standard.
“Now, teams are focusing on the counties of Levy, Taylor, Lafayette and Madison there in the Big Bend,” Patronis added.
Eight search and rescue teams will camp along the marshland as they work to check on every residence in the Big Bend. As of yesterday, 54 canine units were deployed with search crews – trained dogs effective in locating anyone trapped under debris.
Patronis says while the number of calls for help has been less than Hurricane Ian last year, many people still need assistance getting to shelters or hospitals with reliable power and medical care. People with chronic diseases who rely on oxygen or durable medical supplies are the most at risk.
“Doctors Memorial Hospital in Perry never closed,” Patronis told The Florida Standard. “That’s a good sign and now they’re inbounding those people that need that extra medical attention.”
Patronis says Governor DeSantis took advantage of Florida’s good fiscal health and made special preparations, “setting aside over a million gallons of extra fuel to keep on standby so we didn’t have to rely on the supply chain if things got messed up.”
As Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Patronis says the state also set aside a “quick action” fund that can be used to help with restoration after the storm. He says it can be difficult for local governments to cover restoration costs or secure financing while waiting on FEMA and other federal agencies to approve assistance.
“They’re small counties,” Patronis said. “They don’t have a big population base and their budgets get strained real quick. These state funds are key to a strong recovery.”
CHECK YOUR LOCAL CONDITIONS
For those in affected areas looking to get back home, Patronis says it’s best to wait until it’s safe. He recommends asking a neighbor or loved one in the area to check local conditions before attempting to return home.
In Big Bend specifically, crews are still clearing debris and roads may be unsafe. The best way to get updated information is through your county’s emergency management website below:
Donations may be made by credit card on the secure website or by check to the below address. Checks should be made payable to the Volunteer Florida Foundation and should include “Florida Disaster Fund” in the memo line.
Volunteer Florida Foundation
Attention: Florida Disaster Fund
1545 Raymond Diehl Road Suite 250
Tallahassee, FL 32308