Red Cross

Volunteer Don Whited straps in a Cambro container in the back of a Southeast Minnesota Red Cross emergency response vehicle on Friday in Rochester. The ERV is expected to be deployed in the next couple of days to the East Coast.

More than 1,200 miles away from the North Carolina coastline, volunteers in Southeast Minnesota are preparing to send help to those affected by Hurricane Florence.

The American Red Cross of Southeast Minnesota already has sent three volunteers to the East Coast in advance of the hurricane, and the organization is readying its emergency response vehicle for deployment.

“All three are very experienced disaster responders,” Melanie Tschida, Red Cross executive director, said Thursday.

The American Red Cross of Southeast Minnesota, headquartered in Rochester, serves communities across Le Sueur, Rice, Goodhue, Wabasha, Winona, Fillmore, Olmsted, Mower, Dodge, Steele, Waseca and Freeborn counties.

Fifteen to 20 volunteers throughout the region are on standby, waiting to be deployed if the need is great enough. Tschida said it will depend on the level of devastation and ground conditions whether the additional volunteers will be sent.

If they are sent, Tschida said some would likely go to shelters working to support the people staying in them.

On Wednesday, the Minnesota Red Cross tweeted that 35 volunteers from the state have been sent to help with Hurricane Florence relief efforts.

On Friday, the organization prepared its emergency response vehicle, Tschida said. If called up, the truck heads to its destination filled with empty insulated food containers and will serve as a “feeding vehicle” at disaster relief sites, according to Tschida.

If that call comes, the truck has to be on the road within a matter of hours after receiving the call, which made Friday’s preparations vitally important.

Storm brings heavy rains, knocks out power

The Associated Press reported Hurricane Florence arrived early Friday morning in North Carolina with howling 90 mph winds and a terrifying storm surge that splintered buildings and trapped hundreds of people in high water.

The 400-mile-wide hurricane unloaded heavy rain, flattened trees, chewed up roads and knocked out power to more than 600,000 homes and businesses.

By early afternoon Friday, the hurricane winds had weakened to 75 mph, just barely a hurricane and well below the storm’s Category 4 peak of 140 mph earlier in the week.

But the hurricane had slowed to a crawl as it traced the North Carolina-South Carolina shoreline, drenching coastal communities for hours on end.

More than 12,000 people were in shelters in North Carolina and 400 in Virginia, where the forecast was less dire. Officials said some 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate, but it was unclear how many did.

Still an opportunity to help

There still are about two months left of the 2018 hurricane season, and that means there still is time for those interested in becoming Red Cross volunteers to sign up.

The Southeast Minnesota Red Cross will conduct a disaster training session Oct. 5 and 6 in Rochester. Those interested in taking part in the training can call 287-2200 and follow the phone prompts.

Tschida said it is a good opportunity for those interested in deploying to disaster areas to get the necessary training.

Financial donations also can be made to the Red Cross to support relief efforts. Visit www.redcross.org for options on how to donate or call 1800-HELP-NOW.

This story contains reporting from the Associated Press.

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Public Safety Reporter

Emily is the Post Bulletin's public safety reporter. A Minnesota native, Emily worked at two newspapers in New England before returning to the Land of 10,000 Lakes in July 2018.

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