Some in Capital Region going into the eye of the storm

September 08, 2017 07:52 AM

GUILDERLAND CENTER - While millions of Floridians will be evacuating their homes in the coming days, may of our neighbors here in the Capital Region will be heading directly into the path of Hurricane Irma.

It takes a special kind of person to be part of an emergency rescue team. Thirty-five people from the Capital Region are driving through the night, determined to make a difference in the lives of total strangers whose world is likely going to be torn apart.

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So what type of a person does it take to give up the safety and security of home, leave their loved ones behind, to help total strangers in their time of need?

"We're all type A personalities," said Brook Rowley of Duanesburg, from the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control, "We all come together because we are the type of people that really just want to help people out and I guess that's what drives us to that."

Rowley is one of 35 specially trained task force members equipped for urban search and rescue missions, including swift-water rescue operations, who left the Capital Region Thursday night, headed for Florida, where they'll aid the recovery mission in the eventual aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

"We're excited because it's going to bring morale back to our office and the team," Rowley states, "We train for hours and hours and hours and this is our chance to put that to use and do something good for what we train for."

Part of the team is K-9 specialist Dax, a 7-year old black lab whose been performing live rescues since he was pup, under the guidance of his handler Greg Gould of Delmar.

"You train but you don't know what ou're going to get til you get there," said James Hughs, of Poestenkill, a member of New York Task Force 2.

Hughs has been responding to disaster zones for nearly two decades, ever since the Mechanicville tornado in 1998.

"We have to be able to handle everything we're going into and the good thing about it is we have each other," Hughs says, "We can lean on each other and that helps us get through the tough times."

Characterizing it as tough times might be an understatement.

"I don't expect to be staying in a hotel for 14 days," Rowley says, jokingly.

She's right. Task Force 2 members will be roughing it in tents, without air-conditioning, eating pre-made military meals.

"The conditions will be much like what the citizens will be going through once Irma comes through," says Kevin Wisely, Deputy Director of the New York State Homeland Security and Emergency Services. "There'll be power outages and difficult conditions."

Wisely says rescue reciprocity is important.

"Governor Cuomo has been very proactive in supporting other states in our response and support as many of these states have supported us in the past," he says, "Sandy, Lee, and Irene, others have been there for us."

The task force left Guilderland Center around dinner time Thursday night. After driving non-stop, they expect to reach Florida by early Friday afternoon where they'll operate out a base near Jacksonville, Florida before heading home in a about two weeks. 


Dan Levy

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