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FEMA Official on Hurricane Michael: First Responders Are ‘Our Neighbors,’ ‘Americans at Their Best’ 

A storm chaser climbs into his vehicle during the eye of Hurricane Michael to retrieve equipment after a hotel canopy collapsed
Gerald Herbert/AP

Michael made landfall on Wednesday along the Florida panhandle as a dangerous Category 4 hurricane and officials said some 320,000 people have either evacuated the affected area or decided to ride out the storm.

On a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) hosted a conference call with reporters. Brad Kieserman, vice president of operations and logistics for the American Red Cross, said even before the hurricane hit some 5,000 people were in shelters in Florida.

But the fate of hundreds of thousands of others, especially those who decided to ride out the storm, won’t be clear until it moves on, bringing more devastating destruction to Georgia, Alabama, and South and North Carolina — both still recovering from Hurricane Florence.

Kieserman said “thousands if not tens of thousands” of people will be displaced by the storm and officials are looking at a “long-term sheltering mission.”

Jeff Byard, associate administrator for the Office of Response and Recovery (ORR) at FEMA, said the agency’s priorities would be working with state and local officials to save lives, put resources in place, and to restore vital lifelines like electricity and access to clean water.

Breitbart News asked about those who did not heed the mandatory evacuation orders put in place by state or local officials and how they can be helped given the dangers of storm surge and wind gusts at over 100 miles an hour.

Byard said the “team effort” will include search and rescue personnel, law enforcement agencies, and power crews.

But, Byard said, the American people will be the real heroes in weathering the storm.

“Our first responders in this country – they don’t wear uniforms,” Byard said. “It’s our neighbors.”

“And at this point what we see in every storm is Americans at their best,” Byard said. “They’re going to help their fellow man; they’re going to help their neighbors if they can.”

Kieserman praised the National Weather Service for tracking the storm, which he said is like nothing he has ever experienced, transforming from a tropical storm to a Category 3 hurricane in just six hours.

Kieserman said that the humanitarian urge to help others could also backfire and put more people at risk of injury or death and recommended visiting the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster website to find out the best way to help storm survivors.

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