DES MOINES — At least 16 volunteers from multiple Iowa Red Cross chapters are already fanned out in the southern U.S., waiting for Hurricane Dorian to make landfall.
Spokeswoman Caslon Hatch says emergency response vehicles from Burlington, Des Moines, Sioux City and Waterloo left Iowa for points south during the Labor Day weekend. “Our emergency response vehicle drivers have been instructed to go to Alabama and wait out the storm and then relocate after the storm makes landfall to the most impacted areas, the most devastated areas,” Hatch says. “Basically, they’re just on standby mode.”
Other groups of Iowa Red Cross workers have been dispatched to various locations along the East Coast, as far south as Florida and as far north as North Carolina. “We are relocating our volunteers that are in Georgia to more of the North Carolina-South Carolina area as the hurricane is starting to shift north, away from Florida,” Hatch says. “Right now, it really is just kind of a wait-and-see. It’s changed so much in the last couple of days.”
The massive storm was initially headed directly for Florida’s Atlantic coast but slowed to a crawl along the Bahamas, where it’s done significant damage and claimed at least five lives. The hurricane’s path is still uncertain, so for now, the Iowa volunteers are getting inland emergency shelters ready.
“We do know the areas in those four states, Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina, are going to be impacted,” Hatch says. “We are expecting tens of thousands of people that may be seeking shelter. We also have people that are going to be in charge of feeding people that are going to be going out into the most devastated areas and feeding those first responders.” The Iowans will also be distributing clean-up supplies, things like tarps, rakes and gloves. There’s also a mental health professional in the Iowa delegation who will be helping storm survivors with emotional support. Major General Ben Corell was recently appointed as commander of the Iowa National Guard. General Corell says he’s been in touch with other state guard leaders to coordinate the response as the storm develops.
“We need to see what the damage is from this incident, what the needs are, who can supply what,” Corell says, “so, it’ll be as the incident occurs.” Though Dorian’s direction of travel is uncertain, at least 19-million people live in areas that -could- be impacted by wind, as much as 15 inches of rain, flooding and a high storm surge.
The Red Cross says as many as 50,000 people in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina may need emergency shelter. Iowans can help by visiting redcross.org, calling 800-RED CROSS or texting the word “Dorian” to 90999 to make a $10 donation.