As east Texas continues to be deluged by the remnants of Hurricane Harvey, help is coming from a number of states, including Florida. And some of that assistance is from the Panhandle.
“This has happened to us, we know what its like,” said Jerry Kindle, Executive Director of the American Red Cross' northwest Florida chapter. "The Gulf Coast has always been a very giving community, and we appreciate all the assistance we’re getting.”
The deployments from the Red Cross' service area in the Panhandle began Friday to both Texas and Louisiana.
“Nineteen people have left from our region, and most of those are from our ten counties so far,” Kindle said. “It’s about an even split between Texas and Louisiana. We actually had people go early, because volunteers do the actual staffing, determine the need and do all of the logistics when the people get there.”
At this point, none of this region’s seven ERVs – Emergency Response Vehicles –have been sent west. The main reason is an area of disturbance that’s now in the Atlantic and projected to become Tropical Storm Irma off the U-S East Coast. It crossed the Florida Peninsula over the weekend, flooding some residential areas.
Volunteers in the Houston area are awaiting a break in the weather in and around Houston, before some of their work can begin.
“We do the sheltering, the feeding and the canteening; we also do damage assessment,” said Kindle. “This is going to be a very long, drawn-out event. It will be several more days before the water goes down and we can even get started.”
Red Cross volunteers generally serve in a disaster area for about two weeks, give or take, before they rotate home. And Kindle says that’s making it a top priority to recruit more volunteers.
“The first step is to go to www.redcross.org and say ‘I want to be a volunteer,’” Kindle said. “We’re going to give you some safety training for everybody, and depending on what you’re going to go do, we’re going to give you some specific training.”
The call is going out from Texas for blood, with OneBlood’s Pensacola office is joining their counterparts in answering that call. All blood types are welcome, says spokesman Pat Michaels, but there’s a special need for a couple.
“O-negative and O-positive blood, as well as platelet and plasma donors,” Michael says.
OneBlood’s mission in this instance is two-fold: collecting enough blood and components to provide for both local needs, and those in east Texas.
“As we well know here in Florida, when we have hurricanes and are shut down, we don’t have blood donations,” said Michaels. We would supply our hospitals first, and then the blood that we will be able to get in excess to send to the blood banks in Texas.”
Gov. Rick Scott has assigned state Fish and Wildlife officers, boats and equipment to the Houston area. Some have been staged in Pensacola. When deployment is complete, 145 officers and support staff will be in Texas.
Meanwhile, the Red Cross is taking donations specifically for Harvey’s victims. Executive Director Jerry Kindle says cash is preferred, and points to the myriad ways to give.
“Call our office at 432-7601, [visit] redcross.org online, [or] you can mail a check to the Balen Street address [in Pensacola],” said Kindle. “We’ll take care of that and get the help to the folks there in need.”
You can also donate ten dollars by texting the word “Harvey” to 90999 on your mobile device. Donations of clothing, food, and other items would more of a hindrance than a help for now.
“People – with the best of intentions – just don’t realize [that] the logistics, the cost of storing and transporting goods generally outweigh the value of it,” said Kindle.
Volunteers from other organizations are also gearing up to assist in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
The Salvation Army has shower trailers, bunkhouses, a generator and 12 staff in Baton Rouge; and the Florida Baptist Convention has feeding and chainsaw teams on stand-by for deployment.