Fort Payne firefighters were deployed this week to help with relief efforts on the Gulf Coast. Hurricane Sally's eye made landfall around 4:45 a.m. on Wednesday, slamming Gulf Shores, Alabama as a Category 2 hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The storm reached maximum sustained winds of 105 mph and has dumped more than a foot of rain along pockets of southeastern Mississippi, southern and central Alabama, northern Georgia and the western Carolinas.
Five members of the Swiftwater Rescue Team – Sgt. Ben West, Lt. Josh Jennings and firefighters Ryan Hambrich, Dallas Blansit and Caleb White -- headed to South Alabama to help people affected by what the NHC warned would be "historic life-threatening flooding" from southeastern Louisiana to Florida's Panhandle.
The team members joined firefighters from Marshall County, Decatur and Madison as Alabama Task Force 3, arriving in Atmore Wednesday evening. The group headed to Robertsdale in Baldwin County on Thursday morning to search areas that were rendered inaccessible due to flooding. Fort Payne Fire Chief Ron Saferite said the group was set to return on Friday after assisting in debris removal in at least three communities.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a state of an emergency closing Alabama's beaches. The storms are part of a particularly active hurricane season in the Atlantic, with forecasters tracking five tropical cyclones simultaneously in the Atlantic basin this week.
According to the Swiftwater Safety Institute, first responders train to rescue people while dealing with water hazards and emergencies. In addition to fire-related services, Fort Payne Fire and Rescue responds to medical emergencies and provides specialized rescue services such as vehicle extrication, confined space rescue, trench rescue and high angle rescue. It also provides hazardous materials response for the area. The agency stands-up as a member of the state’s mutual assistance program as a Medium Rescue Team.