Florida National Guard

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The state of Florida has evacuated all of the hospitals and nursing homes in the Florida Keys as Hurricane Rita takes aim at the chain of islands.

State emergency officials in Tallahassee are directing Florida National Guard soldiers, search and rescue teams and emergency medical teams to get ready to move into the Keys following the storm.

The rescue teams are staging in West Palm Beach, Homestead Air Force Base and Miami as they prepare to respond to impacted areas.

The man in charge of the Florida National Guard says eight helicopters are ready to airlift soldiers into the Keys in the event that roads or bridges are washed out. Major General Douglas Burnett says 24-hundred troops are mobilized and another two-thousand are on alert. He says they are prepared to build an air bridge to Key West if necessary.