Emergency crews from DeSoto County and across North Mississippi responded to the devastated coastal cities of the florida Panhandle hard hit by Hurricane Michael and their efforts have received recognition by federal disaster officials.

According to Chris Olson, Task Force 1 Commander and the Director of the DeSoto County EMA, a total of 42 emergency responders from North Mississippi were sent to the Gulf Coast, including 12 from the DeSoto County.

"We're still in the active search and rescue mission," Olson told members of the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors on Monday. "The recovery will go on for months and years."

Olson said Task Force 1 personnel spent the eve of the hurricane's landfall in Mobile, Ala. and were then dispatched to such hard hit areas as Mexico Beach and Panama City, Florida. 

"It was devastating - pretty rough," Olson said. "Several of our guys on Task Force 1 are from the Gulf Coast. they had a lot of wind damage. They are going to every home and business, which are crumbled. They are looking for survivors. They had one person needing dialysis and another person who needed a C-Section. They were eating C-rations before Southaven Alderman John David Wheeler with Operation BBQ Relief got down there. Now he is feeding them three times a day."

Olson said Task Force 1 crews are mapping the disaster areas for federal authorities like FEMA.

"There are thousands of homes they are mapping," Olson said. "They are usually walking 19 miles a day. The federal task force teams want our guys there," added Olson.

Olson said the first night after the hurricane made landfall, emergency officials were sleeping inside their ambulances.

DeSoto County Board of Supervisors President Mark Gardner lauded Olson and crews under his command.

"I would like to commend you for your actions," Gardner said. "Within 24 hours you had tents for people to sleep in and radio towers erected. We got a report there was a damaged hospital and they were transporting patients further inland."

District 4 Supervisor Lee Caldwell asked how the local community could help out in the disaster recovery operation.

"Financially, I ask people to support big brand named corporations who have stepped in to help," Olson said.

Robert Lee Long is Community Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at rlong@desototimestribune.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.

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