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Florida National Guard Ready to Assist After Tornado Strike

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2007 – More than 8,000 Florida National Guard members are ready to assist local authorities after a tornado touched down in the central part of the state early this morning, a Florida National Guard spokesman said today.

A Florida Air National Guard helicopter is flying Gov. Charlie Crist over the damage area, which includes DeLand, Fla., about 30 to 50 miles northeast of Orlando, Florida National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Ron Tittle said.

Tittle said Florida National Guard headquarters in St. Augustine has been communicating all day with the state’s emergency operations center in Tallahassee. The Guard is now awaiting possible requests for first aid, water, food, debris removal and other emergency services, he said.

“We had a conference call this morning with our major (state emergency response) units statewide, giving us a heads-up to stay turned and be aware in case tasks pop up for the Florida National Guard,” Tittle said.

County and other local authorities typically request emergency response assistance from the state after natural disasters, Tittle said.

The tornado appears to have been part of “a major cell” of turbulent weather accompanied by severe thunderstorms that struck DeLand and other areas early today, Tittle said, noting some reports cited several tornados and strikes in Florida.

The Florida Air National Guard is conducting aerial reconnaissance over areas touched by the storm, Tittle said.

“There seems to be extensive damage in some of the key areas,” Tittle said, including a retirement community located near DeLand.

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