Michigan National Guardsmen heading to Florida by plane and by bus
Irma weakened to a tropical storm as it moves over Florida toward southern Georgia. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says it's expected to weaken to a tropical depression by Tuesday afternoon.
Irma hit southern Florida on Sunday as a Category 4 hurricane, bringing roof-ripping winds, gushing floodwaters, and widespread power outages.
Michigan guardsmen will assist in recovery efforts around Jacksonville and along Florida’s southwest coast.
Adjutant General Greg Vadnais leads the state’s Army and Air National Guard.
Vadnais took part in the Katrina recovery effort. He expects Michigan Guardsmen will encounter blocked roads and a lack of cell phone coverage.
"They'll be fine," Vadnais said as he met with guardsmen this morning in Grand Ledge. "Just go out and take care of people like it was your family and we'll be good," he said. "And they are our family."
Many Michigan guardsmen say they actually do have family in Florida, which makes this mission different from other deployments.
Staff Sergeant Nicolas Beller has family in Florida, including a cousin who sat out the storm in Tampa.
He says this is the first time in more than 30 years in military service that he has been deployed domestically.
"It's kind of different helping here at home," says Beller, "It gives you a little more sense of pride, I would say."
Michigan guardsmen are expected to be in Florida for the next two to three weeks.
A small contingent of Michigan National Guardsmen have returned from a deployment to Texas to help with recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Among the things they did there was delivering bales of hay to stranded cattle.