Some 37 Minnesota Red Cross volunteers are in place along the Eastern Seaboard awaiting a wicked swipe from Hurricane Florence.
“They’re doing everything from helping support evacuation centers to logistics, making sure our trucks and supplies are getting to the right places at the right time,” said Carrie Carlson-Guest, spokeswoman for the Red Cross’ Twin Cities operations.
Volunteers are in both Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia as well as the Washington, D.C., area, she said. Also on site are emergency response vehicles and food trucks that can feed workers and refugees, she said.
“We’re able to get resources in ahead of the storm,” Carlson-Guest said. Those resources include nurses to help victims who need medication or a compassionate ear.
With the storm hitting the Carolinas on Thursday, some airports shut down, and volunteers were set to shelter in place like everyone else, she said.
Both the Red Cross and Salvation Army are poised to deploy help after Florence strikes to support residents and volunteers, a need that could stretch across 11 states. Staff and volunteers from Nechama, a Burnsville-based relief group, are preparing to move north to Atlanta from Texas, where they’ve been working on Hurricane Harvey cleanup since last year.
Nechama usually goes in after a storm, providing free “muck and gut” work to needier residents. Executive Director David Kaplan said Nechama clears out filthy water, rips a home down to its studs to prevent mold and helps with the rebuilding. The group provides the work free.
It now has up to 40 volunteers from all over the country in Puerto Rico and Texas. By next week, it will have five staff members and two volunteers in Atlanta ready to roll. “That way we’re just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Carolinas and [coastal] Georgia,” Kaplan said.
Aid requests have come into Minnesota from the Carolinas and Virginia through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a mutual aid agreement among states. The requests are being reviewed by agencies and organizations to determine if they are able to assist with the specific staffing and resources.
“Action can be taken once the requesting state accepts an offer of assistance from an agency or organization,” spokesman Bruce Gordon said.
Salvation Army Maj. Rae Doliber said four Twin Cities-based canteen trucks that can support cooking and provide meals are ready. “We’re still waiting for Florence to decide what she’s going to be,” Doliber said.
The Salvation Army has not put out a call for new volunteers; the organization has trained and credentialed personnel ready to go, she said.
Carlson-Guest said the Red Cross is always looking for volunteers. “This isn’t the only storm out there,” she said. More immediately, she said, anyone who wants to help can donate blood locally or give $10 by texting “Florence” to 90999.
In the storm’s anticipated path, blood donations have been paused, but “the need doesn’t stop. There are still going to be people that have cancer, that have car accidents,” she said.
Meanwhile, on the ground near the storm, Minnesota volunteers take cover and wait to see what Florence leaves behind.
“We’re always praying,” Doliber said.