Minnesotans are heeding the call for help as Tropical Storm Harvey swamps the Texas Coast with record rains.
The Minnesota chapter of the American Red Cross has so far deployed 28 volunteers and three mobile feeding trucks to help those displaced by record flooding in Texas.
Volunteers will help distribute food, operate emergency shelters, coordinate volunteers and manage warehouse operations as truckloads of relief supplies start to arrive, said Red Cross staffer Lynette Nyman. More volunteers are expected to head south in the coming days.
Minnesota volunteer David Schoeneck arrived in Houston Saturday night and has been working 20-hour days at the George R. Brown Convention Center, which has been turned into a massive shelter for those left homeless. So far, an estimated 3,000 have sought shelter there.
Schoeneck is part of the Red Cross' public affairs team helping media from around the world. The West St. Paul retiree has volunteered with the Red Cross for 15 years and this is his fourth hurricane. Schoeneck said the stories of loss are sobering and compel him to volunteer.
"This is probably the worst day in 3,000 people's lives. Nothing really compares to the situation they are in," he said. "Some families are coming with suitcases. Other people are coming with one little garbage bag. That's all their possessions. Some know their house is gone."
The national organization of the American Red Cross has launched a fundraising campaign at https:/redcross.org/donate/donation and says it is "working around the clock to provide safe shelter and comfort for the hundreds of thousands of people impacted by this disaster."
As images of the disaster compel people to donate, Federal Trade Commissioner Terrell McSweeny took to Twitter and urged people to be aware of scammers and to vet groups and charities collecting Harvey relief money.
The Salvation Army in Minnesota and North Dakota is calling on its emergency disaster services personnel to prepare to deploy, but said for now, financial donations at helpsalvationarmy.org are the best way to help.
"This is an ongoing disaster that will continue to impact this region for months, if not years," Lt. Col. Lonneal Richardson, leader of the Salvation Army Northern Division, said in a written statement. "We know it's a matter of when, not if our colleagues in the South will need reinforcements. Our people are well-trained and will be prepared to step in when called to duty."
Corporations step up
Minneapolis-based Target Corp. will donate $500,000 to aid in recovery efforts including the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and Team Rubicon, an organization that pairs the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to quickly deploy emergency response teams.
Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank is facilitating donations to the Red Cross relief effort through its ATMs. U.S. Bank also donates $150,000 to the American Red Cross annually for disaster services and matches employee donations. Last year, U.S. Bank's total contribution to the Red Cross was nearly $500,000.
"The Red Cross is consistently on the ground during natural disasters to support communities in a time of need," U.S. Bank President and CEO Andy Cecere said in a written statement.
"We encourage everyone to consider making a contribution to the Red Cross to help out our neighbors during these challenging times."
Harvey, which made landfall Friday as a Category 4 hurricane, has lingered along the Texas Gulf Coast dropping as much as 40 inches of rain in some areas, causing devastating floods in Houston and surrounding areas.
The rising water forced an evacuation of parts of the city and overwhelmed rescuers who could not keep up with calls for help, according to the Associated Press.
Plans to rebuild
Volunteers with Fridley-based St. Philip's Lutheran Church Disaster Relief Ministry, led by building trades professionals, were already on the phone Monday making plans for a trip to the Texas Gulf Coast in 2018. The team, founded in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, works on rebuilding efforts after the waters have receded.
"Long-term recovery will be in motion at that time," said Mike Anderson, a retired civil engineer and National Weather Service hydrologic forecaster who co-leads the ministry. Anderson said he expects multiple trips to the Texas Gulf Coast over the next several years, noting that preliminary indications are the damage may be worse than Hurricane Katrina.
The St. Philip's team has deployed on more than 60 trips across the country, usually responding to flooding, which is not covered by most homeowners insurance policies. They've rebuilt homes in North Dakota, Colorado and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. They know the Gulf Coast well, having made six trips there after Hurricane Katrina and three trips to Galveston, Texas, to help remodel a food shelf warehouse.
"The worst part about the South is mold," said Anderson, describing the challenges the team has faced on past trips.
The team has two trailers full of building tools and equipment. Volunteers include an electrician and five who have owned their own construction trade businesses.
Other volunteers have learned on the job how to drywall, hang doors and install windows, Anderson said. Between 25 and 35 volunteers go on each trip, which typically lasts nine days.
While in the U.S. Navy, Anderson said he witnessed firsthand the wrath and devastation of Hurricane Camille on the Gulf Coast in 1969. He saw the damage floodwaters can do in 1997 as a forecaster at the National Weather Service when the swollen Red River inundated Grand Forks, N.D.
"The devastation just gets embedded in you," he said. "You see things that are horrific."