Florida Forest Service & Agricultural Law Enforcement Efforts to Support Hurricane Sally Response

FLORIDA, UNITED STATES– As the Florida Panhandle continues with recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sally, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) are providing updates on resources deployed by the department’s Office of Agriculture Law Enforcement (OALE) and Florida Forest Service.

“Hurricane Sally has devastated parts of the Florida Panhandle, damaging homes and many acres of Florida-grown crops. We have deployed our Florida Forest Service and Agricultural Law Enforcement teams to assist affected areas and support emergency response efforts,” said Commissioner Fried. “We thank all first responders and emergency managers, and we are continuing to work with state and local agencies to help Floridians recover, rebuild, and replant in the wake of this disaster.”

UPDATES:

Florida Forest Service: A 36-person Type 2 Incident Management Team (IMT), led by Incident Commander Keith Mousel, was deployed on Wednesday to Crestview, from which they monitored and assessed the situation. This IMT supported multi-state Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) operations throughout Escambia, Okaloosa, and Santa Rosa counties as part of multi-agency Florida Task Forces.

Florida Task Force 3 assisted in the rescue of over 27 residents and 5 companion animals in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties along the Blackwater River. Florida Task Force 5 conducted USAR operations in the vicinity of Innerarity Point, where no human aid or evacuation were necessary. Florida Task Force 8 Air Operations flew missions from Pensacola to the Alabama border and along the barrier islands.

Florida Task Forces 3 and 5 continued USAR operations today in Escambia County along Perdido Key and in Okaloosa County, where the most recent flooding had occurred. I-10 has reopened at this time, and recovery efforts have begun immediately, although power lines, large trees, and other road hazard continue to pose threats and barriers of which Floridians should be alert.

Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement: A four-person RECON team deployed from Miami to assist with force protection efforts early this week, with two high-water vehicles to transport equipment and escort transporting vehicles bringing supplies and equipment to the panhandle. Yesterday, the OALE RECON team was demobilized along with the Miami USAR Team 2, and remains standing by for new mission orders.

Crop Damage: Hurricane Sally caused severe flooding throughout several Florida Panhandle counties, affecting major producers of agricultural products including peanuts, cotton, corn, walnuts, pecans, timber, seafood, and aquaculture. Commissioner Fried is continuing to communicate the concerns and needs of Florida agriculture producers to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Producers with crop insurance are advised to reach out to the USDA’s Risk Management Agency and Farm Service Agency for further assistance.

Vehicle Weight Waivers: On Wednesday, Commissioner Fried issued recommendations that the Florida Department of Transportation waive size and weight restrictions on agricultural vehicles for all counties west of Leon County. This applies to vehicles transporting agricultural commodities, emergency equipment, services, and supplies.

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