Apex rescue team weathered storm to help Irene victims

Posted August 30, 2011 10:39 p.m. EDT
Updated August 30, 2011 11:09 p.m. EDT

— The Apex Fire Department's swift-water rescue team practices regularly for emergencies like the historic flooding that inundated many communities during Hurricane Irene. So as soon as the storm hit the coast, they hit the road.

The department has 25 swift-water technicians and 20 divers, but only nine, led by Battalion Chief Mike Beasley, were deployed to the Albemarle Sound area of Tyrrell County on Saturday afternoon. They braved the storm's intensity and its aftermath for 48 hours straight, checking on residents who didn't evacuate.

"On a small scale it kind of reminded me of Hurricane Floyd, with the flooded towns and low-lying areas," Beasley said.

As soon as they arrived on the coast, Beasley said, the need for their unique training was all around them.

"We got there, found three people (whose) car had stalled out. The water was up in the car. They just needed basic assistance getting out of the flooded area," he said.

Even after Irene's eye had passed, the storm raged on.

"It was still raining sideways, the wind was blowing very strong and trees were breaking," Beasley said.

Beasley urged people who decide to stay behind during a hurricane to use common sense and be safe. Emergencies are dangerous for those involved, but they're dangerous for responders, too, he said.

"Listen to the authorities when they ask you to evacuate and go to safer areas," he said. "That way we don't have to go out into the storm."