Virginia Red Cross volunteers already arrive on the Gulf Coast, more preparing to deploy as Hurricane Ida hits

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HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Several Virginia Red Cross volunteers have already landed along the Gulf Coast and several others are on the way to help out as Hurricane Ida made landfall Sunday. Sunday marks the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast.

Four Virginia Red Cross volunteers landed in Baton Rouge, La. Saturday to help out. Sunday afternoon, 8News learned five more Virginia volunteers are getting ready to deploy out to Louisiana, Alabama or Mississippi within the next 48 hours.

Janice Shearin-Smith is one of the four volunteers that flew out of the Richmond International Airport Saturday to Baton Rouge to help people impacted by Ida.

She and 500 other volunteers from across the country will be making sure the people impacted will have a place to stay and have fresh meals.

Regional spokesperson Christy Carneal said supplies in their warehouse like cots and bottled water are ready to be sent to the Gulf Coast if they are requested, but sometimes people affected need much more than supplies.

Virginia Red Cross regional spokesperson Christy Carneal shows supplies packed in their Henrico warehouse, ready to be shipped out to the Gulf Coast if requested. (Photo: 8News reporter Sabrina Shutters)

“There will be people that lose their homes and people that lose family members potentially, and there’s just so many things that go into it when you think about it, and that’s why one of the things we get requested to send are people part of our disaster spiritual care team, our disaster mental health team, because it’s not just the physical impacts that you see, but also the emotional,” Carneal told 8News in an interview Sunday.

The organization’s emergency response vehicle, or a feeding truck, is a common request from people in areas being affected by disasters, according to Carneal. Every region that has feeding trucks has to be able to get the vehicle on the road within 24 to 48 hours. She said they are prepared to do so if any trucks are requested, currently identifying which teams would go with the trucks.

Virginia has five feeding trucks across the state, which would require a total of 10 people to go with them.

During Hurricane Katrina, the Virginia Red Cross sent hundreds of volunteers down to the Gulf Coast to assist. Carneal said before Katrina, evacuation to other states had not been closely looked at. When people saw the impact of Katrina in the early 2000s, Carneal said the Red Cross and others have become more prepared for future disasters.

“Even during Katrina, they actually opened up a state run shelter here in Virginia because they talked about bringing in evacuees,” Carneal said. “The only reason we wound up not getting any in is because we then became in the path of a different hurricane.”

Carneal said Katrina was a teaching moment for the Red Cross and for a lot of different organizations across the response and preparedness world. She said Katrina was one of those things emergency preparedness organizations had never really seen in a number of years.

The Red Cross is accepting new volunteers and donations to help out in states impacted by Ida. Carneal said they are also always in need of blood donations.

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