More Bay Area first responders go to Panhandle for relief effort

- More help is on the way from the Bay Area for those impacted by Hurricane Michael.

On Thursday, police officers from several cities and the Salvation Army drove up to the panhandle, some unsure how long they will need to stay. The departments packed everything that could be needed as officers make their way toward the state command center in Tallahassee.

"Obviously, the roads are pretty rough. We go through lots of tires, so we're bringing those. We're bringing our own food, our own water," said Lt. Paul Amodeo, of Largo police.

Largo Police Department sent six officers to travel up first.

'We are set to go up there for four weeks. We'll be sending four separate teams up there, rotate them out just about every week," said Amodeo.

Tampa police along with officers from Plant City, USF, and Tampa International Airport ran into rush hour traffic Thursday after those crews left downtown Tampa Thursday night. Officers in the group of 20 don't know how long they will stay to help, but they bring different skills.

"Some of it is as simple as chopping up a tree and opening up a road," said Chief Brian Dugan, of Tampa police. "There's some minor and some major things to do. I think there's a lot of anxiety because so much of it is unknown."

The Salvation Army also packed up to leave. Volunteers put together cleaning supplies for those returning to what's left of their homes. Workers stacked trailers with water and containers for hot meals that will serve thousands of people.

"I think it means everything if you can imagine not having a hot meal, not having clean water. It means hope. It means 'Hey, I'm going to get through this,'" said Lt. Col. Gary Haupt, of Salvation Army of St. Petersburg.

Tampa Bay area first responders said state agencies usually pull together to help out one another in times of need following catastrophic storms.

"One day, we may be on the receiving end. Right now, we can go up there and hopefully make a difference," said Amodeo.

Some Salvation Army volunteers just returned from the Carolinas following Hurricane Florence, and now they're heading up to the panhandle. The Tampa police chief said they are using the trip to teach officers who are new to storm response, so they're ready for when the Bay Area needs them.

The Florida Department of Health is asking people to fill out an online report if you're concerned about a loved one and need someone to check on them. Once it's sent in, the state emergency operations center will route the reports to the appropriate local agency for action.

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