Red Cross volunteers from Alabama head to Florida
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - More than 500 Red Cross volunteers from across the country are on the ground in Florida to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. That’s according to Kelly Hodges, executive director of Red Cross’ Central East Alabama chapter.
Many of the volunteers who were deployed to Florida had been hunkering down in shelters Thursday until it was safe enough to begin their disaster relief efforts. That includes nearly 60 volunteers from the Alabama/Mississippi region.
“And we’ve got more (volunteers) coming, I’m part of what they call the first wave,” said Mike Brown, executive director of Red Cross’ South Alabama Chapter based out of Mobile.
Brown said he and the group of about 60 volunteers arrived in Orlando about three days before Hurricane Ian made landfall. He said their first mission was to help support evacuation shelters during the storm. Now that the storm has passed, they are setting up long-term shelters for the dozens of families who have lost everything.
“People can stay one day, they can stay a month, it just depends on what their needs are,” Brown said.
Hodges said there are currently over 30,000 people seeking assistance at Red Cross shelters in Florida as of Thursday afternoon.
Brown said search and rescue operations are underway, especially in some of the worst hit areas like Naples and Fort Meyers. He said it is their job to provide help to those who need a warm, dry place to stay.
“Once they’re rescued and out of harm’s way, we’ll take them to a Red Cross shelter and take care of them,” Brown said.
Those who stay in the shelters will be provided with a meal and water. The Red Cross also deploys several emergency response vehicles to various disaster locations and provides hot meals, and emergency supplies to those on the streets.
“Rakes, shovels, tarps, gloves, clean up kits, comfort kits, “Brown said.
Brown says with help from the Red Cross, hope can be restored.
“The storm surge was about 15 feet, and if you have a storm surge like that in a place like Florida where a lot of people live by the coast you’re going to have a lot of displaced families, so the Red Cross is going to be there to take care as long as it takes,” Brown said.
While Hurricane Ian’s impacts are done for the state of Florida, Ian is forecasted to make landfall for a third time as in South Carolina on Friday.
President Joe Biden said Hurricane Ian may be responsible for “substantial loss of life” and could end up being the deadliest storm in Florida history at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
The Red Cross is always in need of volunteers and cash donations. To volunteer, or make a donation, visit the American Red Cross website.
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