ST. CLAIR COUNTY - It's been a mass exodus from Florida as Hurricane Irma approaches the Florida Keys and southwest Coast. Residents and visitors are spending hours on the highway or in lines outside of shelters, already finding it difficult to find gas and water.
Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away from the storm, airmen at Scott Air Force Base are preparing to offer relief and rescue to hurricane victims.
A total of twelve C-17`s from Charleston, South Carolina, that are in the potential path of the storm, will find a temporary home and shelter at Scott Air Force Base. They will also be dispatched from here to help victims of the hurricane. They'll help with medical rescues, deliver supplies, or fly people out of hard hit areas in Florida or the Caribbean.
"It's always hard to leave our loved ones, but that's our job here in the military. Leave the ones we love to protect everyone else and their loved ones," said Sgt Jose Rodriguez.
The planes are valuable military assets, each one costing more than $200 million. They can carry a lot of weight - more than five hundred thousand pounds of equipment, people and fuel. After the storm passes, the planes will most likely be sent into some of the worst areas hit by the storm.
"We also understand it's never a good thing when you have to call for medical support, but if called they`ll give their best and give 100 percent. Like I said, they`re proud to be here and support Americans if in need," said Col Russ Frantz.
On Saturday afternoon, a C-17 loaded with supplies headed from Scott Air Force Base to Washington, D.C. where it will pick up hundreds of medical personnel and transport them to Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
On Facebook, Team Scott shared that, to date, it has delivered fuel, meals, and arranged lodging and transportation for 130 support personnel and about 50 evacuees and their pets from Key West.
Crews say they are willing and able to go anywhere in the world if needed.