HOUSTON (FOX 26) - People from the Houston area are on the ground in the Florida Panhandle helping with the response effort following the landfall of Hurricane Michael. They include crews restoring power, firefighters, and volunteers with their own boats in tow.
Dustin Gideon, a volunteer from Deer Park, Texas, arrived in Pensacola before dawn on Wednesday and waited there for the hurricane to make landfall. By noon, he was on the road again, headed east toward the hurricane as it moved north, leaving its path of destruction.
"I'm going up ahead to scout the road conditions, see how much debris is on the roads, if anything's been washed out, what the status of the storm surge is to see how far in we can get," said Gideon, noting he is the first member of his volunteer group to arrive in Florida.
Gideon is a member of 50 Star Search & Rescue, a volunteer group that formed during Hurricane Florence, with members from throughout the U.S. Sixteen more Texans from the group were on the road Wednesday, scheduled to join Gideon in the relief effort on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning.
Gideon timed his drive through the worst of the damage just after the hurricane had blown through Wednesday afternoon. He spent the day scouting the area so that other 50 Star SAR members would know where to go to render aid.
"We're trying to relieve some of the strain on local agencies," said Gideon.
Gideon passed by debris blocking roadways, torn-up buildings, shredded flags, and a toppled gas station canopy while driving through Destin on his way to Mexico Beach, where the hurricane made landfall.
Another group on its way to assist Florida first responders is Texas Task Force 1. Seventy Texas firefighters hit the road on Wednesday morning. Those firefighters included members from Houston, Galveston, Fort Bend County, The Woodlands, Baytown and Spring departments, according to a spokeswoman for the group.
At CenterPoint Energy in Houston, a long line of trucks hit the road for Florida early on Wednesday morning. CenterPoint is sending a crew of more than 100 people to respond to Florida's power outages.
"We're excited to go help them," said a spokesman for CenterPoint. "We know they come help us, and we're really ready to go help them get their communities back on their feet."
As for the Texas volunteers and firefighters, they say they'll stay in Florida as long as they are needed for Michael recovery effort.