Florida evacuees try to enjoy New Orleans as city sends search-and-rescue teams

Florida evacuees try to enjoy New Orleans as city sends search-and-rescue teams

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Walking down Bourbon Street, Melissa Figueroa blends in as another New Orleans tourist, except she traveled from her home in Orlando to escape hurricane Dorian.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen, and just to be sure and spend our time here,” Figueroa said.

She said there was no way she was going to chance staying at home, especially because she said she’s seen all too well the devastation a major hurricane can leave behind.

“We are really from Puerto Rico, so we moved there after Maria. And now we have Dorian, so that’s why we’re here now,” Figueroa said.

Teams of New Orleans firefighters and EMS personnel are already en route to hurricane ravaged areas. Specializing in search and rescue, those teams are expected to be completely self-sufficient, according to the Collin Arnold, director of Homeland Security.

“I’d say they’re about the best in the country at that kind of work, but you’ll see response from all over the country moving into that area,” Arnold said.

He said 15 firefighters and four EMS personnel with all their gear are headed to the Jacksonville area in Florida, as part of a country-wide agreement to assist with major disasters.

“We’ve seen the same thing when we’re touched by hurricanes, other states helping us, so this is our way to do everything we can to help our neighbors,” Arnold said.

Arnold said work they’ll be doing may be dangerous, but as first responders from New Orleans, their assistance will be invaluable. He said these are similar teams that responded to hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and countless others.

“These are battle tested search and rescue professionals and we want them to stay safe and accomplish what they need to do in Florida and the southeast,” Arnold said.

Figueroa said so far, all is well with her family and neighbors who chose to stay behind and brave the storm.

“They don’t know if it’ll impact directly on Orlando, but we won’t have word til Wednesday, so just to be sure we are here,” she said.

Despite trying to enjoy all the city has to offer, she said she can’t help but worry about what’s happening back home.

“We’re scared of that, so that’s why we are here, to be sure," Figueroa said.

Arnold said the crews are on their way to Jacksonville, but could be re-routed at anytime depending on the storm’s impact.

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