When Category 4 Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday, October 11, it was the third-most powerful hurricane to ever hit the United States. According to a report from National Geographic, the maximum wind speed for the storm reached 155 miles per hour.

The devastation left in Michael’s wake is still being calculated, and it will likely be some time before officials can say definitively what the final toll is. According to The Weather Channel, the storm has already claimed 18 lives, and has likely caused billions of dollars worth of damage to the region. Several small communities such as Panama City Beach, Mexico Beach, Port St. Joe, and Carrabelle may take several years to fully recover.

I was able to speak briefly with flight paramedic Kitt Hunter, who currently works for a civilian helicopter ambulance service based near Panama City, Florida. I have known Kitt since 2011, and worked with him at the ground ambulance service in 2012 and 2013.

Kitt and his crew have been working nearly nonstop since Thursday morning when the weather was finally calm enough for flight operations. Kitt fly’s on a modified Bell 407 GX, which carries a crew of three and can take one patient at a time. Because of their advanced training, the flight crew can perform several of the same treatments one would find in a modern Intensive Care Unit of Emergency Department.

Joe: Can you give us a run down of the last few days, starting before the storm?

Kitt: The storm came up on us pretty quick, but luckily our bosses were keeping an eye on it, so when we saw it was going to hit us, we immediately moved the aircraft out of harm’s way on Tuesday. I rode the storm out in my house in South Walton, about an hour west of Panama City, on Wednesday. And reported to the airport on Thursday morning.

Our helicopter was joined by two other helicopters from our service that flew in from other parts of the state. We gave a presentation about Panhandle operations — locations of helipads and potential landings zones, normal weather patterns, stuff like that — but then we immediately went to work. Our service was contracted by one of the large hospitals in Panama City, so we knew going in our first priority would be to evacuate those patients. Our priority patients were all from the ICU and were ventilated –which means they were hooked to breathing machines — so we needed to get them out of there as soon a possible.

Once we started we didn’t stop for a few days, there were so many patients that needed to get out.