ARLINGTON, Va. – More than 5,000 National Guardsmen from multiple states are positioned across southwest and central Florida to help communities devastated by Hurricane Ian.

Florida Guardsmen and others from Louisiana, New York and Tennessee – with more on the way from Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey, South Carolina and Montana – are standing by to provide direct support in the wake of the catastrophic storm, said Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the chief of the National Guard Bureau.

“We’re hurt by the significant devastation we’re seeing and the impact on the lives of Florida citizens,” Hokanson said. “In the immediate aftermath, search and rescue will be the focus. Our concern is saving lives and getting our folks in there as quickly as possible to make a difference in that critical time to get people out of situations that may be potentially life-threatening to them.

“Because we’re in every community, we’re part of the first responders to assist in recovery immediately,” he said.

Louisiana National Guardsmen pack a van before heading to Florida to assist with Hurricane Ian response efforts at Jackson Barracks, New Orleans, Sept. 27, 2022. In accordance with the guidelines of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) process and at the request of the Florida Department of Emergency Management, the LANG is deploying personnel and equipment to support the Florida National Guard in their response to the hurricane. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Garrett Dipuma)

Ian made landfall on Florida’s southwest coast Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 hurricane with 150 mph winds and record storm surges, flooding cities up and down the Gulf Coast. Now a tropical storm, there is still a danger of life-threatening storm surges and flooding through Friday along the northeast Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coasts.

Widespread, life-threatening flooding, with major to record river flooding, will continue Thursday across central Florida, with considerable flooding in northern Florida, southeastern Georgia, and eastern South Carolina expected through the end of the week.

Hokanson said the Guard was working closely with local authorities to ensure the right people and equipment were in the right places to maximize impact.

That equipment includes 16 helicopters, 1,640 high-wheeled vehicles, seven boats, 36 fuel tankers and generators to conduct search and rescue operations, clear roads and support law enforcement.