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Monday, December 5, 2022

OPD hurricane response team to assist with search and rescue efforts in Hardee County

The Ocala Police Department is deploying a Hurricane Ian response team to Hardee County to take part in a multi-agency relief effort that will include search and rescue missions.

“Our hearts go out to every Florida resident who has been severely impacted by this catastrophic storm,” stated Ocala Police Chief Mike Balken on Thursday.

OPD sends hurricane response team to Hardee County
Police Chief Mike Balken announcing the Ocala Police Department’s involvement in the relief efforts in Hardee County (Photo courtesy of the Ocala Police Department)

While Ocala has been fortunate to experience minimal disruption from Hurricane Ian, Balken pointed out that there are thousands of neighboring Floridians who have lost everything during the storm and are in need of assistance.

In a social media post, the Hardee County Sheriff’s Office stated that an “extreme number of rescue calls” have been received from residents in the area due to damage and flooding that was caused by Hurricane Ian. Most roadways have been deemed unsafe to travel due to flooding and weak infrastructure, and a countywide curfew is in effect from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. until further notice.

Hardee County road damage
A road in Hardee County that sustained damage from Hurricane Ian (Photo courtesy of the Hardee County Sheriff’s Office)

The Ocala Police Department’s response team will be deployed to Hardee County on Friday morning. “I could not be prouder of this dedicated group of officers for stepping up and taking time away from their families to help those in need. May they be successful in their mission and return home safely,” said Balken.

Balken requested that all Ocala residents keep those who were impacted by the hurricane, along with the officers being deployed to assist in the relief efforts, in their thoughts and prayers.

The Ocala Police Department will be joined in Hardee County by additional agencies, including the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. In addition to conducting search and rescue missions, the participating officers will also perform various law enforcement and security duties. 

Anyone wanting to help in the relief efforts can contribute a monetary donation to Florida’s official disaster fund via the Florida Disaster Fund website or by texting the word “DISASTER” to 20222.