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MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – Miami Fire Rescue’s Florida Task Force II packed up Tuesday to head to the state’s Panhandle in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Michael.

The 80 member team, which specializes in swift water rescue and disaster response, will take a caravan of SUVs, box trucks, tractors and boats loaded with everything from food to medical supplies.

“They’re heavily trained, from hazmat technicians to swift water technicians, they’ve done a wide range of training to get to this level,” said Task Force II’s Scott Dean.

Hurricane Michael is expected to strengthen into a major hurricane before slamming into the coast. Dean said swift water search and rescue is one of their specialties and they take everything with them they’ll need.

“Boats for potential swift water or standing water that’s in the area, heavy rescue equipment everything from airbags to what’s considered the jaws of life,” said Dean. “It’s unfortunate for the people that it will affect but this is what we train for.”

Many of the members on the team were in the Carolinas just last month responding to Hurricane Florence and performed over a 100 evacuations and several rescues.

Coral Springs/Parkland Battalion Fire Chief Stephanie Parker spent 10 days in South Carolina in response to Hurricane Florence. She said other team members were there just shy of a month. She said they are ready for whatever Michael brings.

“Every one of them is different, we train to a level that’s unparalleled to most teams and we prepare for the worst,” she said

From the time they got the call from FEMA they had just four hours to activate and head out Tuesday morning.

The team will stage in Ocala as they await the storm’s arrival and expect to be on the ground for two weeks or longer.

They are not the only South Florida fire rescue team heading north. Just 48 hrs. after returning from South Carolina, 45 members of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s Urban Search and Rescue Team Florida Task Force 1 are also being deployed to northern Florida. The unit also specializes in swift/floodwater rescue.


Gov. Rick Scott has called Michael a “monstrous hurricane” with a devastating potential from high winds, storm surge, and heavy rains. He declared a state of emergency for 35 Florida counties, from the Panhandle to Tampa Bay, activated hundreds of Florida National Guard members and waived tolls to encourage evacuations.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)