At least 26 Minnesotans volunteering in Hurricane Florence relief

They will ride out the storm in evacuation centers with residents

Sloane Martin
September 11, 2018 - 1:35 pm

The National Weather Service says Hurricane Florence is capable of "life-threatening, catastrophic flash flooding due to very heavy rainfall" on the Carolina coast and inland.

Flights and football games are being cancelled and thousands of residents are boarding up and taking off, but at least two dozen Minnesotans will ride it out on the ground as Red Cross volunteers.

Forecasts say Wednesday is the final full day for preparations before the hurricane hits, bringing a possible 30 inches of rain to some areas. Red Cross regional disaster officer Megan Mrozek isn't currently being deployed to Florence, but she knows firsthand what the experience is like — she rode out Hurricane Irma in Orlando.

"It's a really difficult time to be assigned to a disaster," she said. "You're right there in the thick of it with impacted residents as the storm goes through. Power is not predictable. I compare it to a 24-hour tornado drill where you're inside, staying safe, not sure what's happening outside until it's safe enough to go outside and see the destruction it's caused."

Red Cross volunteers, including at least 26 from Minnesota, with more on the way, are setting up evacuation centers in buildings that are structurally safe. Their main job now is making sure people are informed and that their needs are met.

They'll be busy, but also have to pay attention to their own safety.

"One of the things we pay very close attention to is when the tropical force storm winds will arrive in the impacted area," she said. "And that's the time when we stop moving our workforce.”

Mrozek said that moment — when they are in position, with the storm arriving, has a certain eerie quality.

“It is a very quiet and strange time when we hit that point -- when we've done all we can do to position our materials and our workers in place to weather the storm. For our workforce, we're in constant communication letting them know what the updated models are saying."

The volunteers are out on a three-week deployment, but Mrozek expects there to be more waves in the aftermath.

She advises anyone with relatives in the in the impact area to tell them to evacuate with supplies like bedding, medications, food and water. The Red Cross has an emergency app to look up evacuation centers closest to them.