Tennesseans Help Florida; Governor Haslam Signs Executive Order

Posted at 7:32 PM, Sep 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-10 19:42:21-04

Thousands of people have been leaving Florida as Hurricane Irma has churned closer to making landfall. 

For those headed eastbound on Interstate 4 between Tampa and Orlando, they’ve experienced bumper to bumper traffic.

Irma has been expected to make landfall Sunday, and places like Miami have already been seeing heavy rain.

Governor Bill Haslam issued an executive order suspending state laws to assist Hurricane Irma evacuees in receiving medical attention while in Tennessee.

The order signed Saturday allowed health care providers licensed in other states to practice in Tennessee. It also allowed pharmacists to dispense 14-day supplies of prescription drugs to people displaced by the hurricane. Evacuees can also receive Department of Health Services that typically require Tennessee residency.

Haslam's order will remain in effect until midnight on September 25.

Tennessee has become the destination for some Floridians fleeing the hurricane that's expected to make landfall Sunday.

While many have been fleeing here, some Tennesseans headed south to help those affected.

Teams of health care and search-and-rescue professionals from Tennessee headed to Florida ahead of Hurricane Irma.

A two-person crew from Vanderbilt University Medical Center will be there for more than a week — possibly up to two weeks.

Thursday, the state department of Emergency Medical Services called the Medical Center to request an activation of a strike team.

That crew left Friday and they're preparing for the worst. 



The hospital has been waiting to see if LifeFlight helicopters will also be requested to help move patients around. 

A search and rescue team made up of doctors and nurses has also been on standby in case Florida needs more volunteers.

“We feel like this is an opportunity for us to really open our doors and our hearts for these people who are going through these types of emergencies,” said Kevin Mooner of Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “This is a disaster situation. It's a situation no one is ever really prepared for, even when we do have notice.”

Three members of Williamson Medical Center's EMS Department also left for Florida Friday. They'll be there to help out local first responders.



Paramedics with the Wilson County Emergency Management Agency also headed to Florida to evacuate patients who may be bedridden or unable to move on their own at the VA hospital in Bay Pines.

“The Tennessee Department of Health and EMS sent approximately 25 ambulances to assist Florida,” said Lieutenant Adrian McNabb, of Wilson County EMA. “We have five strike teams and five ambulances and a supervisor with each strike team."

The National Hurricane Center said it's looking more likely that the eye of powerful Hurricane Irma will strike the Keys, southwestern Florida, and the Tampa Bay region. While the core of the massive storm has been expected to miss the populated Florida southeast coast, forecasters said the Miami region will still experience life-threatening hurricane conditions.

Its winds weakened to 130 miles per hour when it hit Cuba, but Irma was forecast to regain strength over the ultra-warm Florida Straits and hit western Florida as a strong Category 4 storm.

Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said a direct hit into the Tampa region, which hasn't felt a major hurricane since 1921, has long been a concern.

He said storm surge there will likely be a major problem.