As the Florida peninsula is battered with high winds and rain from Hurricane Irma, first responders are gearing up for the aftermath.
At the Orange County Convention Center, thousands of vehicles and pieces of equipment including heavy machinery and aircraft will help first responders with relief efforts.
Brandon Kalloo Sanes, a senior airman for the Air Force Reserve says his unit is ready to respond with assistance if needed. Kalloo Sanes’ unit has previously performed rescue operations during Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Katrina.
“The U.S. Air Force is standing by and ready to assist with anything that comes up,” Kalloo Sanes told Fox News. “The 920th Rescue Wing in particular has three HH-60 Pavehawk helicopters ready to go. We also have two HC-130s in Georgia that are capable of in-air refueling.”
Kalloo Sanes noted that the helicopters could be used for land and sea rescue operations. Vehicles and aircraft used by police, EMS personnel and firefighters were also on site. In total 1,500 vehicles are staged at the convention center ready to be dispatched to different parts of the Sunshine State.
Buddy Dyer, the mayor of Orlando, says law enforcement personnel is working around the clock during the storm and after the sky clears to keep everyone safe.
“Law enforcement are on 12 hour shifts and we’re ready,” Dyer said. “We’re about as ready as we can be for this storm.”
Orange County, FL opened 18 shelters to the public and at least four were operating at capacity on Sunday. Several residents expressed concern about the storm but remained optimistic and positive as they wait for Hurricane Irma to pass.
Brandon Boldes decided to go to a local shelter because he believes the building is more secure than his home.
“I have a new born that's eight months old and I felt that the school is safe for the fact that the school is built out of tar,” Boldes said.
Anthony Villani decided to shelter in place in his apartment downtown but expressed concern about cranes dangling over construction sites in the area.
“Being on the 22nd floor that’s always a concern that some conduit or something from the construction site [could be] blowing around,” Villani said.
Perhaps a shinning light in the midst of the storm was when two Air National Guard airmen tied the knot at an impromptu wedding ceremony. Michael Davis and Lauren Durham planned to get married on September 16th but cancelled their wedding after getting the call to help with relief efforts during Hurricane Irma. The couple met after high school and have been dating for the past five years.
“Our wedding has been interrupted by Hurricane Irma so it just kind of happened,” Durham said. We have a really great supportive family here in the guard unit. Everybody that’s here with us just supporting the citizens of Florida in this hard time.”
Durham giggled when she introduced herself to reporters as Lauren Davis for the first time. The newlyweds are committed to serving the people of Florida and didn’t think twice about postponing their wedding plans.
“Service before self,” Davis said. “We’ll take care of the citizens first before ourselves.”