Pasco emergency managers lend help, expertise during Florence

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Several emergency management officials from the Bay Area are now in the Carolinas helping Hurricane Florence victims.

Twelve emergency management officials from Pasco County, Pinellas County, the City of Lakeland, USF, and the Florida Division of Emergency Management are in North Carolina helping with a wide range of tasks, from distributing food to delivering cots to shelters. Most importantly, they've been helping the local emergency response centers alert residents about the changing weather conditions.

"We had a tornado touch down this morning," Pasco County Emergency Management Assistant Director Laura Wilcoxen said. "Everybody's cell phone went off with the tornado warning. people were OK. There was just minor structural damage."

Wilcoxen deployed to North Carolina Wednesday along with 11 other team members. Since Thursday, they've been stationed at the Edgecombe Emergency Operations Center in Tarboro, North Carolina.

"One of our biggest concerns is flash flooding," Wilcoxen said. "The river is still low that comes through this town, but we know that it is anticipated to be up into flood stage in the next several days."

Wilcoxen and her team are currently stationed in the northern part of the storm, where the team has been helping manage the logistics at several area shelters.

"Many people evacuated," Wilcoxen said. "They had five shelters that were open with about 300 people. they were sheltering a little over 60 cats and dogs at their animal shelter."

Multiple deaths have already been reported across the Carolinas, but Wilcoxen says, so far, there hasn't been any major injuries or damage reported in their area.

"Trees are blowing around," Wilcoxen said. "There's small debris that will be covering the streets that they will have to do a light clean-up operation on. it's still raining, but the main impact has passed."

Late Friday, the team from Pasco got word they'll be moving to a new area to help out. No word yet on where exactly they'll be heading.