ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — After the nearly Category 5 Hurricane Michael barreled through the Florida Panhandle Wednesday afternoon, crews from across the state, including the Bay area, are heading to the Panhandle to aid in recovery efforts.

A Tampa Bay regional task force loaded up Wednesday night, preparing to head north to help with search and rescue efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.

The Bay area task force is made up of members of Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, Tampa Fire Department, and St. Petersburg Fire Department. All of them have been trained extensively for search and rescue after storms like Michael.

About 20 members of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office headed north Thursday morning to provide support to agencies impacted by Michael. 

The team will bring specialized equipment, including vehicles for water rescues, refrigeration trailers and a portable communications tower. 

Pasco deputies also are lending a hand, packing up a semi full of supplies destined for the Panhandle. At least 14 deputies are going to assist, according to sheriff Chris Nocco. 

And Sunstar Paramedics is sending two emergency buses and five ambulances to the area to help.

The teams of volunteers, trained in disaster response, left early Thursday.  

"This is also paying it forward for the help we received last year during Hurricane Irma," said John Peterson with Sunstar. "We had 25 ambulances that came to Pinellas County from up north last year to help us with patients and this is an opportunity for us to give back."