VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Recovery efforts continue in Louisiana, where Hurricane Ida made landfall as a category 4 hurricane.
As WAVY-TV in Norfolk has reported, local first responders are there to help, including Mercy Chefs and Operation Blessing.
Virginia Task Force 2, an urban search and rescue team based out of Virginia Beach and deployed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is also on the ground.
“A lot of downed trees, a lot of power lines are down, over a million people in the area are without power right now, so it’s tough conditions right now for the people of Louisiana,” said Mike Hopkins, the leader of Task Force 2. “We’re searching the areas have been inundated by either floods or trees that have been down that have basically trapped people into their neighborhoods or even in their houses.”
He and 45 others are in Hammond, Louisiana, about 45 miles northwest of New Orleans.
“We’re going around and clearing roadways to allow us to get into areas that have been affected by the storm and that allows us to check structures to make sure that everybody in the structure is okay,” Hopkins said.
They’ve evacuated more than 25 people from their homes so far.
“Getting out of that area and getting to someplace where they can get assistance, where they can get food and they can get water, they’re very happy to see it,” Hopkins said.
They are also helping local first responders by marking buildings that need repair, and responding to the backlog of emergency calls.
“Restore stability to the area, that’s what we’re trying to help out with,” Hopkins said.
It’s grueling work, but Hopkins says it’s worth it.
“I love helping people. That’s why I became a firefighter. I love helping people,” he said. “As long as there’s people requesting assistance, that’s how long we will be here.”
Hopkins says the team is currently staying about an hour and a half from Hammond. They will stay there as long as they are needed and then will move to other regions, depending on the instructions from FEMA.
He says all of the team members are grateful for the support from back home in Hampton Roads.
On Thursday, Virginia Task Force 2 announced 27 members had also been activated to support missions from the remnants of Hurricane Ida. They will help the Blue Federal Government Incident Support Team in Hillsborough, New Jersey.