Local rescuers head to flooding in Jacksonville

Flash flooding in coastal Florida city as Irma sweeps through

Irma, Jacksonville, Florida
Rescue workers help Tom Purdy, right, evacuate his home after Hurricane Irma brought floodwaters to Jacksonville, Fla. Monday, Sept. 11, 2017.

WALKER, Mich. (WOOD) — Two members of the Walker Fire Department are headed south as part of federal efforts to assist with search and rescue operations after Irma.

Lt. Dean England and training officer David VanHolstyn are part of Michigan Task Force 1. The specialized rescue team is made up of firefighters from across the state.

Their convoy left their Oakland County base Sunday. The team expects to be assigned to operations in Jacksonville.

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While Irma has weakened substantially since making landfall 400 miles to the south of Jacksonville Sunday, local officials say the coastal city is being swallowed by water. Heavy rains and a record storm surge turned streets into churning rivers and wind-whipped waves crashed through windows.

Jacksonville has declared a flash flood emergency, ordering people to go inside and stay there.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry tweeted images of rescue crews heading out in boats.

The local sheriff’s office asked people to put white flags outside their homes to signal for help.

Swift-water drownings are a major concern in the region. Members of Michigan Task Force 1 and Federal Emergency Management Agency teams from other states specialize in responding to just that type of emergency.

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As of Monday afternoon, the Michigan rescue convoy was making its way through Georgia in extreme wind and rain conditions. England told 24 Hour News 8 they are the only vehicles on the road headed south.

They’re expected to be in Florida for 11 days.