FORT MYERS, Fla. (KERO) — More than 700 trained Red Cross disaster workers, including 9 from central California, have provided blankets, comfort supplies, and relief items to help the people affected by Hurricane Ian, a number that might be as many as 60,000 people.
“Hurricanes in Florida and the east coast are always bad news this new kind of year,” said Megan Hughes with with Kern Chapter of the American Red Cross. “This one’s been especially devastating. I packed up my stuff and I said ‘let’s go.’”
Hughes says the organization was already in Florida helping with evacuation and shelter efforts there before the storm made landfall. Hughes adds that as of Thursday night, the Red Cross was able to provide shelter for 13,000 Florida residents. They anticipate that number to increase as the storm moves up the eastern seaboard.
“We think this is going to be a long operation. It’s probably going to last through December,” said Hughes. “Our work there is going to be long term.”
Hughes explains that the Red Cross does more than provide shelter for people. The organization has case workers prepared to help those people through the process of reaching a new normal if their home was destroyed or damaged. She says the Red Cross partners with other community organizations in order to bring in more resources.
As the storm heads north, the Red Cross plans to send additional volunteers to the damage zone. Once the disaster team is able to safely assess the damage of the hurricane, they will learn more about what the exact community needs are for those affected by it.
Cindy Huge is the public information officer for the American Red Cross Kern Chapter. She says it will be days before the full scope of the damage that Ian left behind is revealed. In the meantime, Florida is still battling strong winds and heavy rain.
“Once they assess the damage, the Red Cross will know at that point what the needs are of those individuals,” said Huge. “Right now, it’s hard to even say what exactly will be needed, but we are providing comfort and care to those people in our shelters, and we will continue to do so until they have a safe place to either go back home or somewhere else.”
If you would like to make a donation to the Red Cross and contribute to the organization’s relief efforts both in Florida and across the country, please visit the donation page at their website or text the word IAN to 90999.
You can also join 23ABC and the Scripps Howard Fund in supporting those impacted by Hurricane Ian by texting STORM to 50155 to donate to the Hurricane Ian relief fund.