Utah Task Force 1 arrives in New Orleans ahead of Hurricane Ida

Aug 30, 2021, 12:35 PM
hurricane ida utah task force 1 heads out to help...
An abandoned vehicle is half submerged in a ditch next to a near flooded highway as the outer bands of Hurricane Ida arrive Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Bay Saint Louis, Miss. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Members of Utah Task Force 1, one of 28 similar urban search & rescue teams in the US overseen by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, arrived safely in New Orleans yesterday ahead of Hurricane Ida. 

The category 4 storm hit the Louisiana coast Sunday night with winds reaching 172 miles per hour.

Utah Task Force 1 provides Ida aid

Bryan Case, Program Manager for Utah Task Force 1, says five team members traveled to Louisiana from Utah ahead of Ida. The task force’s Facebook page identified four of the team members as Unified Fire Authority employees. It did not identify the fifth person. The four identified include: 

  • Mike Ulibarri, Battalion Chief with Unified Fire Authority and Utah Task Force 1 Operations Section Chief
  • UFA Captain Keith Bevan, Utah Task Force 1 Planning Section Chief
  • Unified Firefighter/Paramedic Keith Plagemann, Deputy Logistics Section Chief
  • UFA Firefighter/Paramedic Embret Fossom, Deputy Plans Chief  

Case told KSL NewsRadio’s Dave & Dujanovic Monday the team’s duties on the ground in Louisiana will include going door to door to look for stranded people. The Utah-based crew may also crawl through rubble looking for Ida survivors, and possibly use boats to get into flooded areas.  

“They started just after 3 a.m. with a list of reverse 911 calls,” said Case. “These are people who refuse to evacuate, have nowhere else to go but their attics, and get trapped.”

Case said rescue teams get the of 911 calls because, “Unfortunately, people call too late.”

Going on foot not an option

Case says Utah Task Force 1 has six military-style boats at their disposal to help with the Hurricane Ida response.  Many homes may still be submerged, so going on foot isn’t an option.  The team also uses specialized equipment like listening devices and cameras to try and find people trapped underneath rubble.

The National Hurricane Center says Ida is tied as the 5th strongest storm to make landfall in the United States.  And it made landfall Aug. 29, 2021, exactly 16 years to the day after the arrival of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. 

The Associated Press reports at least 1 person died as a result of the storm. In addition, an estimated 1 million people are without power, and there could be hundreds of people trapped by flood waters.  

Louisiana officials say Ida strengthened from a Category 2 to a 4 so quickly, there was no time to organize a more formal evacuation.

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Utah Task Force 1 arrives in New Orleans ahead of Hurricane Ida