Members of PA-TF1 return to Philadelphia from Southwest Florida

Pennsylvania Task Force 1 pose with Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf (far right) after returning to Philadelphia. (@PhillyFireDept/Twitter)

Pennsylvania Task Force 1 pose with Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf (far right) after returning to Philadelphia. (@PhillyFireDept/Twitter)

After two weeks in the southeastern United States, most of Pennsylvania Task Force 1 has returned home to Philadelphia.

Task Force 1 includes members of the Philadelphia Fire Department and other first responders from across the state who are specially trained in urban search-and-rescue efforts. For this mission, the team included technical search specialists, structural engineers, doctors, canines and canine handlers, and experts in hazardous materials and other related fields.

On Sept. 28, Forty-five members of the task force traveled more than 500 miles to Columbia, South Carolina before being relocated to hard hit Lee County, Florida.

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The storm made landfall in Southwest Florida as a Category 4 hurricane with winds reaching 150 miles per hour, just five miles shy of being Category 5. Only four hurricanes have hit the continental United States with winds greater than 155 mph.

PA-TF1 spent about a week searching damaged structures in Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island.

The team left Florida on Monday morning, making stops in Georgia and Virginia before making it back to Philadelphia. Several PA-TF1 members traveling separately from the main group will arrive home Thursday.

In Florida, at least 119 people died from Hurricane Ian. Most of the deaths were the result of drowning from a storm surge as high as 18 feet in some areas. In Fort Myers where PA-TF1 was stationed, they experienced a record storm surge of just over seven feet.

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The largest number of fatalities was in Lee County, home to three islands that saw the greatest impact from the storm. The county delayed ordering residents to evacuate for more than a day, despite warnings from meteorologists that it would see “life-threatening” flooding.

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