Central Florida rescue teams head to Louisiana ahead of Hurricane Laura

Laura expected to make landfall this week

As Hurricane Laura barrels toward the United States as a powerful Hurricane, Central Florida search-and-rescue teams are deploying ahead of the storm to aid those in need.

“Our intent is to get out to Louisiana tonight. Stage in place and when the storm passes through, then we’ll be ready to respond to any area that needs assistance,” Task Force 4 leader Walter Lewis said.

The Florida USAR Task Force 4 will be traveling to southwest Louisiana, near Lake Charles, to meet with the Louisiana state fire marshal, who will give out orders.

The team includes firefighters, paramedics, structural engineers, doctors, search-and-rescue K-9s, as well as other highly-trained specialists.

“Rope rescue, confined space rescue, hazmat. Every aspect of the fire service is encapsulated in this response team,” Lewis said.

According to officials, about 40 firefighters will be a part of the deployment that is expected to last about 15 days.

[LIVE TRACK: Laura now forecast to be a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane]

“Task Force 4 specializes in structural collapse, swift water rescue, wide-area search and hazardous materials,” officials said. “We’re bringing boats with us. We’re bringing off-road vehicles. Pick-up trucks with wenches. Housing, we’re bringing our own tent system.”

Laura is forecast to rapidly power up into a “catastrophic” Category 4 hurricane, even stronger than previously expected, as it churns toward Texas and Louisiana.

“First off, we’re going to deal with flooding and then the follow-up, it’s going to be house-to-house searching,” Lewis explained. “It’s always gratifying to help someone else, that is why we’re in the business and this is just one other way that we can do it.”

Laura is threatening to smash homes and sink entire communities. It has undergone a remarkable intensification, “and there are no signs it will stop soon,” the National Hurricane Center said early Wednesday.

“Some areas, when they wake up Thursday morning, they’re not going to believe what happened,” said Stacy Stewart, a senior hurricane specialist.

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