Military drug task force evacuates to Orlando

Families met with FEMA, SBA as they wait to return to Key West

By Mike Holfeld - Investigative Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Members of the Joint Interagency Task Force South and their families are staying in an Orlando area hotel facility as they await orders to return to their headquarters in Key West, which was ravaged by Hurricane Irma.

Military sources told News 6 that roughly 500 members of the task force and their families have been living in Orlando for about a week.

Col. Arthur Davis, chief of staff for the unit, told News 6 having the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Small Business Association available in a town hall setting on Wednesday was very helpful.

“What can we expect when we go back to our homes and if there is damage,” Davis asked. “What do we do to start picking up our lives again?"

Representatives from FEMA and the SBA assisted members with online applications for federal assistance, with officials from other agencies discussing medical and dental benefits.

Even while these families were waiting to return to Key West, their counterparts in Tampa continued a 24/7 vigil to make sure drug runners didn’t infiltrate the U.S. coast from Central and South America.

“That mission doesn’t stop,” Davis said. “While we were evacuating we also had part of our families and team operating out of an operating center in Tampa to continue the mission until we get back to the facility.”

Davis told News 6 he is hopeful they will return to Key West this weekend.

In the meantime, a source with FEMA told News 6 a “mega-center” will be set up in the next few days to
accommodate Orlando area families who need to apply or have questions about federal benefits

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