Even before Hurricane Matthew delivered destructive winds and dumped 13.6 trillion gallons of water on states from Florida to North Carolina, Gold Country Red Cross volunteers were flying to the southeast, pre-positioning to deliver services. They disembarked planes and stepped into nearly deserted terminals before heading off to their duties. Some went to shelters to provide a safe place to stay, food, and comfort for the many evacuees fleeing their homes. Others made contact with local government officials to coordinate services for the displaced.
In all, 46 Gold Country volunteers and staff have deployed to the southeast to assist with relief efforts. “This represents approximately five percent of our Disaster Services work force--a very high percentage of our actively engaged volunteers,” said Regional Disaster Manager Robin Friedman.
Gold Country Red Cross CEO Gary Strong commended the generosity of the volunteers and staff who packed up to help people across the country. “Helping people outside of our region is a tradition in Gold Country,” Strong said. “We are proud of the service our volunteers and staff are providing to people in the Southeast in this time of need.”
While some of the 46 deployed volunteers staffed shelters in areas hard-hit by rising floodwaters in North and South Carolina, others took part in disaster assessment. In Florida alone, officials estimate more than 1700 homes were damaged or destroyed. With information about the extent of damage loaded into a central system, local residents can get the help they need more quickly. Emergency Response Vehicles driven across the country by six Gold Country Red Crossers will be used for bulk distribution of food, water, and clean-up items.
Darren Courtney, from Sutter, California, saw the damage firsthand as he surveyed the Daytona Beach and St. Augustine areas of Florida as part of a disaster assessment team. A landscape of debris-lined streets and roofs crushed by uprooted trees stretched in front of him in some neighborhoods.
Residents in these areas have been grateful for the presence of the American Red Cross and other agencies. “Between local volunteers, Americorp, Jet Blue—they’ve all been amazing in supporting those in need,” Courtney said.
U.S. officials are reporting damage of at least $10 billion, making Matthew the costliest hurricane since Sandy in 2012.