Volunteers from New Jersey are on their way to the hardest hit areas in the Florida Panhandle, while other volunteers from The Red Cross, PSE&G and local first responders are standing by.
“You generally don’t know what you’re going into,” said Julie Daigle, one volunteer who is set to fly out Friday to provide aid with The Red Cross. “I’ve got my sleeping bag and camp roller ready to set. Usually we are in staff shelters. You’re on a cot with your 200 to 300 closest friends.”
Help is desperately needed. Many are heading home in the Gulf of Mexico to find their house is gone. Winds up to 155 miles-per-hour were recorded, swallowing up entire neighborhoods.
Currently, 11 volunteers from the New Jersey Red Cross are deployed in Florida, as dozens more are already stationed in the Carolinas to provide relief from Hurricane Florence.
New Jersey PSE&G just deployed gas workers for a separate emergency in Massachusetts on Wednesday. Now the utility is standing by in case they’re called to Florida, where more than 350,000 people are without power.
“So far we have not been called in to assist,” said PSE&G spokesperson Karen Johnson.
New York and New Jersey emergency responders are on route to the Gulf Coast, including New Jersey Task Force 1, which rolled out Wednesday.
In the Gulf Wednesday night, almost 8,000 people sheltered in Red Cross evacuation centers. Hot meals, clean up supplies, information, food and support for victims are all priorities.
“Whether you give them a hug, or give them a cookie or a blanket or just really have a conversation to hear their story,” said Daigle. “I’ve been in the boat that some of the these folks have been in where you’re coming back to you’re home and you’ve got to rip out sheetrock, you’ve got to clean the place up and knowing that I’m part of the team helping these people recover, to me that is what keeps me going.”
More Red Cross volunteers are standing by and they are getting ready to deploy in the coming weeks. The Red Cross says donations to their disaster relief fund are always welcomed and appreciated.